How to Deal with Toxic Co-Workers


As a former Accounting Manager, managing people was both one of the most challenging and rewarding experiences of my life. It was my daily responsibility to balance upper managements expectations to my direct reports abilities and personalities. In addition to managing productivity, I had to maintain an environment conducive for my team to excel in. I also had to help my team members manage their relationships with each other.  This wasn’t always easy when dealing with personalities and associates’ personal problems that spilled over into work hours.

My team consisted of the following personalities:

  • Productive worker bee with a bad attitude and draining conversations.
  • Irresponsible former frat with a positive outlook on life.
  • Egotistical know it all with a sailor’s tongue and a great sense of humor.
  • Lackadaisical mom mired by personal problems but motivated by working from home.

This means at any moment I could face a compliant, lie, personal melt down or embarrassment.  It also meant that I had to introduce the concept of mindfulness to my team. Mindfulness means awareness.  Awareness allows you to live in the present moment so you can make better choices. Mindfulness also helps you find acceptance and changes how you deal with others. It is not about changing the people around you but more about changing how you respond to them.  When faced with extreme co-worker personalities here are some tips for you to cope with them.

  • Set the tone for the day. Each morning I spent quiet time on my yoga mat. I listened to uplifting music or only accepted calls from positive friends on the ride into work. I arrived earlier so that I had the space to prepare for the approaching cope2personalities. I encouraged my team to do the same. Even if you have a bad ride into work, once you arrive find some quiet time to regroup, prepare and set the tone for the day. This could be as simple as repeating a positive affirmation or prayer to yourself prior to starting your interactions with your co-workers.
  • Create space at your desk. My desk was surrounded by constant reminders I could use to find my center or my happy place throughout the day.  I had a picture of a smiling Buddha, my favorite pictures of my parents, positive quotes, meditation stones, small statues and a plant scatter around my desk.  Your work-space must become your sacred space, the place where you can come during the storm to find your peace. Even if you are not in love with the job, fall in love with your work-space. Falling in love with your work-space may spill over into how you feel about your job or it may give you the courage to move to another job. If you don’t have a dedicated space, find a space that can be yours for a few moments of the day (conference room or outside the building) and bring those reminders with you.
  • Set the tone with your coworkers. Personalities can trigger hidden thoughts and create unwarranted responses. Mindfulness shows you both how to be kind while honoring yourself as well as how to be kind to your co-workers. Some coworkers don’t know when a boundary has been crossed. Be honest and set clear boundaries with your co-workers. If you are not in the mood for conversation before 10 am, then tell your teammates. If you only want to hear positive conversations and the office gossip comes to your work-space then calmly and kindly explain your position. If you are working on something and need uninterrupted time, then be upfront with your teammates and request space.cope3
  • Breathe through the stress created by co-workers. Mindful deep breathing calms the body and helps you regain focus. When I am stressed my shoulders start to hunch over and tension builds in my neck and shoulders. I started to notice when stressful people entered my work-space and what I felt after they left. Mindfulness makes you aware of how your body feels at a given moment. Once you are aware then a simple series of deep inhales and exhales can help you move pass coworker created stress. Breathing helps you reset and relax the body so that you can move to more productive pursuits.
  • Happiness is a choice and laughter lightens the mood. It takes practice but choosing to be happy is a choice. We get to choose how we respond to coworkers. We get to choose if we want to stay upset or if we want to lighten the mood and move forward. Become your own sunny day during the storm by keeping the mood light. Find the humor in life or the funny perspective of situations and share it with others. When one of my direct reports explained that she was late because she injured her left toe and had to drive in to work slowly, I found true humor in that explanation. First, most people do not drive with the left foot so I knew it wasn’t the truth. However, she was set on convincing me so I maintained my composure and listened intently.  Afterwards, I couldn’t help but laugh and I made a choice not to be upset. 

    Coping with co-workers is not an easy task and it takes practice. It requires you to be honest, make better choices and find tools and techniques to deal with your coworkers from a different perspective.

    Connect with me on Instagram @jaiona’s_closet_yoga

    Melissa's 24th Birthday (2)

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