A study has shown that toxic coworkers damage a company’s bottom line. Unfortunately, employees are bound to meet with a toxic coworker at least once throughout their careers. One in nine US employees expresses their workplaces as toxic, created by coworkers or people in leadership.

A toxic employee can hinder productivity and the mental well-being of other employees. It can lead to poor employee retention, plus challenges with new hire sourcing and onboarding. In short, it creates a toxic workplace.

Managers, employers, and employees must learn how to deal with a toxic coworker. The information below covers various tips on dealing with toxic employees as a leader or coworkers. But first, a brief definition of toxic workers.

What Is A Toxic Employee?

A toxic coworker is rude, aggressive, and confrontational in the workplace. They create an unbearable work environment for everyone around them by displaying rude behaviour, adding work onto others, or refusing to do their share of the workload.

It can often lead to employees leaving their positions to protect their mental health. This translates to low employee retention.

In addition, when word gets out, it could make recruiting difficult. A bad company reputation significantly affects the hiring process.

With time, those who do not quit start avoiding toxic workers. It can be an excellent measure to take. However, sometimes, more is needed to deal with the employee since it makes work relationships challenging to manage.

Therefore, employees and leaders must learn how to deal with toxic workers. And they can start by identifying signs.

Signs Of A Toxic Coworker

Unfortunately, toxic colleagues can go unnoticed because their actions are subtle and elusive. However, a few red flags can help you identify difficult people within the workplace.

  •     Lack of cooperation.

    Difficult coworkers will always be resistant to any form of collaboration. It shows during teamwork activities.

  •     Self-serving behaviour

    Toxic employees are selfish. They are only willing to perform actions if they benefit them in the greatest way, no matter the cost or effect it will have on anyone else in the group.

  •     Lack of accountability

    It is impossible to rely on toxic coworkers because they rarely keep promises and refuse to take responsibility for anything.

  •     Always the victim

    These workers continuously spin the story to favour themselves in case of a dispute. Negative people will always try to be the victim of every negative encounter.

  •     Gossiping and trash-talking

    Spreading rumours and backstabbing are just the tip of the iceberg when dealing with toxic coworkers. They badmouth and use any shared information against the person.

  •     Toxic Coworkers find delight in the misery of others

    When a person finds happiness or humour in the misfortune of others, they are likely toxic. This type of person will see coworkers’ mistakes as an opportunity to level up or suck up the boss.

  •     Verbal, physical, and mental bullying

    Toxic coworkers are constantly putting down others and using harsh words with them. In addition, toxic coworkers show passive-aggressive behaviour. It often leads to high levels of discomfort, thus affecting daily tasks and mental wellness.

  •     Negativity

    Toxic people love negativity, and they foster it. They are determined to undermine others and cause failure. Without negativity, they cannot thrive.

  •     Attracting others

    Unfortunately, toxic characters attract their own. They can even form a clique or group, thus increasing the damage caused to a work environment.

How To Deal With A Rude, Disrespectful Coworker

  •     Choose your battles

    Avoid getting sucked into the manipulative games of toxic coworkers. Instead, ignore issues and only respond strategically if necessary.


    Do not compromise your integrity

    Retaining integrity ensures that the toxic coworker has nothing to work with. Thus, integrity is a source of strength.


    Hold direct conversations

    Employees should avoid being passive and instead confront the toxic worker directly. It is also an excellent time to set boundaries.


    Develop and practice healthy coping skills

    Exercise, meditation, getting enough sleep, and eating well can help combat the adverse effects of a toxic coworker.

  •     Seek help when necessary

    Employees should seek assistance from human resources or managers if the toxic work environment becomes unbearable– especially in cases of harassment and bullying.

How To Outsmart A Toxic Coworker


    Understand them

    Toxic employees often have underlying struggles that promote their toxic behaviour. Understanding these struggles could help in dealing with unwelcome conduct.


    Acquire allies

    Employees should find allies who share the same struggle for support.  


    Keep your emotions in check

    Employees should avoid emotional outbursts as it fans the flames of toxic people.

  •     Resist the urge to complain to others

    Complaining to other employees is no better than what the toxic employee does. It will often devalue any claims against the employee.

  •     Don’t fan their flames

    When a coworker tries to gossip, avoid engaging to shut them down.

Dealing With A Coworker Who Is Always Undermining Your Work

  •     Talk to the colleague. Employees should confront the people undermining their work. Part of this is asking them to stop.
  •     Ask for clarification. Asking toxic coworkers to clarify their statements could let them pause and consider how their words negatively affect others.
  •     Ignore their behaviour. Employees should ignore minor bad behaviour if it does not affect their work.
  •     Nurture confidence. Employees should remind themselves to be confident in their processes.

How To Deal With A Toxic Coworker As The Boss

  •     Make information your basis

    Managers need to understand the issues causing bad behaviour in the toxic worker. Offering support can help improve their behaviour.

  •     Address the issue– with evidence

    Confrontation needs to happen with tangible evidence. Therefore, managers must find unquestionable proof of their behaviour.

  •     Set boundaries

    Managers should set boundaries with toxic employees. They should outline limitations of speech and behaviour that makes other employees uncomfortable.


    Outline the consequences

    Should the toxic employee cross the set boundaries, managers should outline the various implications of their actions. Employers should outline disciplinary action in organizational policies.

  •     Monitor the employee

    Employers should monitor toxic employees’ behaviours to ensure there is a positive change.

  •     Isolate other team members

    To protect the mental wellness of other employees, managers should consider giving toxic employees more independent tasks and fewer team assignments.

  •     Break the link– if necessary

    Managers should finally accept that not everyone can change. When bad becomes worse, cutting ties is an essential step.

How Do You Deal With A Toxic Coworker In A Team?

  •     Explain the situation

    Managers should isolate the toxic teammate and explain the complaints forwarded against them. This is an excellent opportunity to set boundaries, clarify consequences, and encourage change.

  •     Offer independent tasks

    Managers should prioritize other employees by giving the toxic coworker separate jobs.

  •     Instil confidence in other team members

    Employers should encourage other employees by instilling confidence. Appreciating the employees and encouraging their efforts can help relieve stress.

How To Protect Yourself From A Toxic Coworker

  •     Don’t take it personally

    Remember, the coworker is dealing with underlying issues. Therefore, they are likely projecting insecurities onto you.

  •     Avoid oversharing

    Any information shared is a weapon for the toxic coworker. Therefore, employees should avoid revealing any personal information.

  •     Keep a distance

    Avoiding toxic employees is a great measure against getting sucked into their mind games.

  •     Focus on growing

    Above all, employees should focus on growth. Dedication to development can help alleviate stress, giving an alternative context to focus on.

Dealing With Toxic Workers Is Necessary

Before firing a toxic employee, managers and the human resources department should understand their underlying problems, offer support, and encourage change.

Similarly, employees can develop healthy coping mechanisms and address the issue correctly. These are steps necessary to fostering a healthy work environment. Explore Workpay for other insightful information on navigating the workplace as a worker or boss.