3 Toxic People in the Workplace and How to Manage Them

Toxic people in the workplace are nightmares! They thrive on making your life miserable. Often their behavior is driven from pride and somehow it makes them feel good to treat you poorly. Likely you have seen all these people at some point in your career. Here are a few tips with how to deal with them:

The Escalator
Not another one! That was the second time in a month that the CIO had been sent a message lodging a complaint about something I did or didn’t do. Rather than taking the time to speak to me to see if we could work it out, this person escalated, repeatedly.

People do extra work around the Escalator to CYA, which reduces productivity and teamwork. I was concerned about an Escalator negatively impacting my reputation until I was in the boardroom with the C-Suite with the Escalator on the phone. More than one person in the room was rolling their eyes when the Escalator spoke. That’s when I realized the Escalator was the one with the bad reputation!


How to deal with one: Stay calm! Take a moment and breathe. Adrenaline is high when you are the victim of an escalation. You feel rushed to defend yourself. Before you do, take a moment and collect yourself and review the situation. Make sure you put it into prospective. At times our pride gets in the way and makes a bigger deal out of things than they really are. Will this matter a month from now? If it is important and requires a response, make sure you respond with facts. Avoid a pissing contest or any emotional outbursts. Additionally, if you dropped the ball, even a little, own up to your piece. Good leaders see through the noise of escalations and focus on getting to the root issue. Don’t let fear get the best of you.

If you are one: Senior leadership is tired of hearing from you. Leaders are busy people. They appreciate those who bring them solutions, not problems. By consistently escalating, you come across as not being able to solve your own problems. If something must be escalated (which is rare and you can read more here), present a solution with it.

The Aggressive Confronter
My heart rate increased over 20%. A member of the business had requested to change a go live date. After stating that was completely possible I explained the logic behind the current go live date and asked if moving it was what the business still wanted. I have never been yelled at on a conference call. I was that day.

The Aggressive Confronter makes everyone uncomfortable except themselves. Additionally, they move the conversation from a place of productivity to an attack. Differences are natural in the workplace, however, the Aggressive Confronter makes it impossible to resolve them. They shut down healthy communication channels and make it very difficult to collaborate.

Junger Manager schreit in sein Handy

How to deal with one: Don’t engage! Do not respond in-kind. First, it won’t move the conversation forward. Instead, you will end up in full on battle mode with everyone protecting their pride. Secondly, it will ruin your reputation. While it may be difficult to overlook the insults and undermining comments, others see what is happening. If you rise above the Aggressive Confronter, you will be the one people want to work with.

If you are one: Beware! One of these times you will be out of line when confronting someone and a person with influence over your career will be present. This can be a severe career derailer. There is nothing wrong with confrontation. In fact, it can improve the way we do things. Make sure you are confronting in a way that is productive. Focus on the issue and avoid attacking the person.

The Politician
Is it even possible to know the truth when dealing with this person? The Politician is the worst because you rarely know where they truly stand. These people can be identified by their knack for consistently talking out both sides of their mouth and their amazing ability to use a lot of words to say nothing.

The Politician can is a master at flying under the radar. Those who are able to identify them quickly become distrusting of what the Politician says. This results in reduced collaboration and makes it difficult for teams to develop innovative results.

HypocrisyHow to deal with one: Stay above reproach! Make sure you stay squeaky clean in your work ethic less the Politician uses your actions against you. Transparency is key. Ensure people know what initiatives you are driving, how you are driving them, and why they are important. If you have nothing to hide it makes it difficult for the Politician to find ammunition to use against you. Also, be wary of what the Politician says. Watch actions over words. Trust historical evidence versus what the Politician is saying at the moment.

If you are one: You won’t fly under the radar forever. When surrounded by people of transparency your duplicity will be found out. Take time and understand why you have a tendency to be the Politician. Guaranteed there is a better way for you to achieve your goals!

These toxic behaviors are career derailers. Every one of them reduces workplace productivity, engagement, collaboration and the bottomline. Being on the receiving side of these toxic behaviors can be trying. I can tell you though, it’s never worth stooping to that level. Leaders are more aware of what is going on than you probably give them credit for. It’s hard for us to believe that because often leaders are slow to respond. If the job is worth it, manage the toxic people and give leaders time to address. If it’s not, get out and don’t subject yourself to that type of negativity.

What other toxic behaviors have you seen? Leave a comment below.

Jana Axline is Chief Project Officer at Project Genetics and the author of Becoming You. Through her leadership musings, she inspires audiences to grow as leaders and ultimately achieve who they were created to be. For more information visit Project Genetics.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s