4 Types of Toxic Colleagues and How to Deal with Them

Published: Aug 21, 2023

 Workplace Issues       Work Relationships       
Article image

Toxic relationships with your coworkers can negatively impact your efficiency, motivation, and overall job performance. They can also negatively affect your overall health, contributing to anxiety, stress, depression, and burnout. This means you need to know how to spot toxic traits and understand how to work with toxic colleagues.

Below are four common types of toxic coworkers, along with strategies for dealing with them.

1. Office gossip

The workplace gossip is among the most common toxic colleagues you can encounter. This person will talk about others in a judgmental way, might be overly critical, and spread rumors. All this can affect the way trust is built in a team environment and damage employee morale. 

The best way to deal with this type of coworker is to downplay their criticisms and gossip. Make sure they know you’re skeptical of their judgments and unwilling to participate in the criticism of others. When you’re forced to engage with this colleague, keep conversations professional and avoid giving your personal opinions.

2. Incessant complainer

This type of toxic colleague can grind on your motivation and impact how you feel about your job. At times their negativity can be contagious and at others seriously overwhelming. Incessant complaining harms the whole workspace and has a snowball-like effect. Constant complaining can be tiring, uncomfortable, and depressing. You might find you carry these effects outside the office. 

When dealing with a complainer, it’s important to have some sympathy. After all, a shared complaint among coworkers can often be bonding. Try to encourage your colleague to rethink their negative attitude. Give them some context for their complaints and, if possible, suggest some manageable solutions. 

Remember to set boundaries. Being supportive is important for team building, but it should not come at the cost of your own mental health. When the complaints are becoming overwhelming, you should look to separate yourself from the situation.

3. Credit hog

Achieving job satisfaction hinges on feeling appreciated in your role. This can be severely hindered by a credit hog colleague. This kind of employee will spur conflict and make it impossible for teams to celebrate one another’s achievements. They could diminish your victories or even insinuate they are their own. Taking credit for your work with bosses and other senior colleagues will make you feel frustrated and invisible. 

The best way to deal with a credit hog is to take a polite approach to confrontation. Be direct here. Let them know that they’re making your work experience challenging and point out their contributions to projects. Also, make sure that management is aware of your contributions and that your contributions are visible. For example, if you’ve identified tools such as certain cloud platforms to make your team more efficient, make sure to cc your manager so there’s a record of who did the recommending.

4. Micromanager

A needless supervisor can be a constant source of aggravation. This is especially true when you have deadlines to meet. This type of toxic colleague finds it difficult to relinquish responsibility and feels the need to assert control over colleagues. In today's remote work environment, dealing with a micromanager can be even more challenging, as their constant need for control may manifest through excessive monitoring and communication.

To deal with the micromanager, assert your authority. Make it clear that you’re qualified for the role you hold and that your work achieves the desired results. If they continue to doubt your competencies, you should avoid working with them where possible.

A final note

Ultimately, it’s important to consider your own limits when managing any toxic situation. You should always speak to a supervisor when you’re finding a situation overwhelming and when the above tactics have not resolved a situation.

Gregory Batchelor is the Vice President of Growth Marketing at Platform.sh, a unified, enterprise-grade platform for building, running, and scaling websites and applications. With over 20 years of experience in the tech sector, including time at companies including Oracle, Cisco and NTT, he has developed a reputation as a marketing and business operations leader. In his spare time, Gregory enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and playing lots of golf.