5 Toxic Traits to Avoid at Work (And How to Deal with Them)

Deanna deBara | The Muse | Updated 2/28/2024

Work often throws people together that may not necessarily interact in their personal lives. And, as such, you might not always love your coworkers. But there’s a big difference between a colleague you don’t vibe with and a person that’s truly toxic.

Dealing with toxic personality traits at work can be stressful and draining; whether you’re facing a gossip, a liar, or a straight-up bully (or any toxic traits in between!), interacting with these types of colleagues can negatively affect your productivity, health, and overall well-being.

Let’s take a look at the impact coworker toxic traits might have—and what you can do to create a healthier work environment.

The risks of toxic personality traits at work

“Working alongside toxic colleagues who exhibit harmful behaviors can deeply negatively impact our sense of psychological safety, self-esteem, and mental well-being at work over time,” says Dr. Daniel Glazer, clinical psychologist and founder of tech platform US Therapy Rooms.

Some of the negative effects you might experience when dealing with toxic coworkers include:

  • Increased stress. Toxic coworkers can be challenging and overwhelming; for example, if your colleague gaslights you (more on that later), it could make you question your own memory and interpretation of reality, leading to increased anxiety. And the more toxicity you have to deal with, the more stressful it is—which can also impact job satisfaction and engagement.
  • Decreased morale. It’s hard to keep a good attitude when you’re dealing with toxicity in your colleagues. “Workers with toxic traits corrode team cohesion and trust, draining energy and morale,” says Glazer. “This prevents teams from collaborating effectively or doing their best work in the long run.
  • Decreased productivity. Managing other people’s toxic traits and behaviors can make it hard to focus on the task at hand and get things done, leading to reduced performance and productivity.
  • Issues with mental health. Toxic behaviors can be hurtful, insulting, and/or upsetting—and having to deal with them on a regular basis may cause people to struggle with their mental health (for example, feeling depressed or anxious when they think about work).

It’s worth noting that if you’re not dealing with just a single toxic coworker, but many, it’s not just a problem with your colleagues—it’s probably an issue with your company. In other words, these are also traits of a toxic work environment.

“A high volume or concentration of toxic workers is generally indicative of an unhealthy organizational culture that enables or ignores disrespectful interpersonal conduct on teams,” says Glazer. So, if you find yourself surrounded by toxic colleagues, you may want to consider whether your work environment is actually a place you want to be.

Read the full article here

By MIT Sloan CDO