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We all know that our colleagues can have a huge impact on how happy or engaged we feel at work. After all, they are the ones who we spend at least 35 hours a week with. 

They are also the same people who can either help or hinder you in achieving your career goals. If you are unfortunate enough to share the same workplace with an annoying toxic co-worker, fret not. Understanding what type of ‘hellish’ characters you work with will help you gain a better understanding on how to best work with them and avoid conflict. Here are some tips on how you can deal with mean co-workers.

types of toxic coworkers
types of toxic coworkers

1. the micromanager

This person is notorious for being a control freak and having trust issues when it comes to the efforts of other people. They may not necessarily be your boss and could just be a nosy co-worker. They often have the need to assert control over others and impose their opinions on other people. Chances are, you are not the only one putting up with this insufferable colleague.

One thing you can do when encountering colleagues like them is to consider the reasons behind their micromanaging tendencies, and react appropriately. If they believe that you are too inexperienced or incapable of doing your job right, you can prove your abilities by showing them the results of your work, or by explaining your rationale to them calmly using data, facts and logic. In short, give these micromanagers absolutely no reason to doubt your competencies or ability to deliver. 

However, it can sometimes be entirely out of your control. If that’s the case, it may be best to avoid them if you can and choose to selectively heed their advice based on the situation.

2. the gossipmonger

This person is the source of all information in the office, even those very private ones. They know everything about everyone, and are not afraid to tell people that they do. Engaging in a conversation with this person can be risky, as associating with the gossipmonger could make you seem like one yourself. In their gossip sessions with others, they may also accidentally let slip that you are the one who shared the information or started the rumour, painting you as another blabbermouth.

Even if you are sharing just a tiny bit of information about your private life with them, the seemingly minute details may morph into something different altogether, and spread like wildfire before you know it. 

You can’t possibly avoid such gossipy people completely, but you can try to control the direction of your conversations. When speaking with them, keep the topics purely professional and your personal opinions to yourself.

3. the office bully

If you thought the gossipmonger was bad, wait till you meet the bully. Be it by spreading malicious rumours about others or even threatening co-workers, the office bully is one that will make work a living hell for their victims. They may also be the ones leaving unconstructive remarks on your work or an aspect of yourself that you can’t change. 

One way of dealing with the bully is to turn the other cheek. Bullies thrive on feeling better about themselves by making others feel small, and giving them that satisfaction will only reinforce their toxic behaviour. Do not give them any attention, or show any indication that their actions or words have affected you. Once the bully knows that they cannot faze you, they may just give up and leave you alone. However, if you see them start terrorising someone else, be sure to speak up for the victims. If it has gone too far, you should consider bringing the matter to HR and legal.

4. the one who just won’t take no for an answer

This person never understood the meaning of consent or how to respect the personal boundaries of others. Their harassment can take many forms - passing comments laced with sexual innuendos, invading your physical personal space or using inappropriate or abusive language of a sexual, racist or discriminatory nature. They may even brush their highly inappropriate behaviours off as harmless jokes, and blame others for overly sensitive. 

However, the increasing focus on sexual harassment cases shows a shifting mindset in society, where victims are more often willing to talk about their experiences and encourage others to speak out as well. If you have repeatedly registered your disinterest or contempt for such obnoxious behaviours, the most efficient way to deal with a disrespectful person is to report them. 

If this person is your superior, go to the next person further up the ladder, or even straight to HR and legal. More often than not, you may discover that you are not the only victim who has come forward. Reporting cases like these are the best way to stop the company culture from getting worse and to avoid someone else from falling prey to their ‘jokes’ and undesirable advances.

5. the passive-aggressive one

This person is the master of throwing shade. It could start as a little snide remark and manifest itself into a full-blown cold war, which can make it extremely painful for everyone on the team to get simple work done. Thanks to their passive nature, these individuals may be difficult to spot at first, but you’ll know it once you see their snarky post-it notes and messages. 

They may often leave you wondering after every conversation about what they really meant. To deal with them, the most diplomatic approach is to first ignore their remarks and hope they notice that you are unimpressed by their unconstructive comments. If the high road doesn’t work, you can try a more direct approach of clarifying with them whenever they say or do something that could be interpreted as passive-aggressive. 

Questions and statements like ‘What do you mean?’ or ‘I don’t really get what you’re trying to say’ acknowledge the situation without escalating it further. These responses are not too aggressive and may impel your colleague into taking a more honest and forthright position with you.

colleagues from hell getting too much for you?

If you are surrounded by colleagues from hell, it may be less of an individual problem, and more of a deep-rooted issue surrounding the corporate culture. It could also indicate a finger-pointing culture where nobody is willing to be accountable for the failure to meet work objectives.

Needless to say, a team of supportive co-workers is instrumental in helping you succeed in the workplace. If you're tired of dealing with toxic co-workers, connect with us and we’ll try to help you find other opportunities that may be more suitable for you. 

One thing about engaging recruiters like Randstad is that we often have details about companies that are not readily available, such as their corporate culture and how their people work and collaborate with each other. We share such privileged information with you to minimise your chance of encountering a negative company culture or colleagues who could be detrimental for your mental well-being in the long-run. 

If you are looking for a more supportive and collaborative structure at work to develop professionally, we are here to help. Take a break from your hellish workplace, click here to stay updated with the latest job opportunities available today.

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