That’s the sound a toxic colleague makes when you’re in his or her presence. Sometimes it’s not so overt but regardless, you still have to work with this person to the point where their abnormal behavior becomes normal and then you get sucked into an abyss of a dysfunctional environment.
Dr. Paul White, co-author of Rising Above a Toxic Workplace: Taking Care of Yourself in an Unhealthy Environment, provides us with some exclusive tips to deal with them.
1. Don’t expect them to respond “normally.” When you’re dealing with someone who is abnormal, their reaction to you will likely be consistent. Yes, as in abnormal, too.
Dr. White explains, “No matter what you do, you may find yourself blamed or second-guessed or told you did the worst possible thing when you actually did something good.” The sane approach, he says, is to give up expectations of getting healthy responses.
2. Accept the fact you can’t change them. Working with a toxic colleague may make you feel extremely frustrated yet “no matter what you say or do,” it’s unlikely the person will listen or change. He adds, “You’ve got the experience and wisdom, and your life is in a lot better shape, but this person just blows you off. After doing what’s kind and forthright, don’t lose sleep over it.”
Ultimately yes, people can change but they must want to change and decide to do it in the first place.
3. Set clear boundaries. You may be blamed for something and be told, “You need to fix this because you helped make it go wrong.” Don’t give into their dysfunctional behavior. Set boundaries and then communicate them.
4. Push back on false guilt. This means you may get blamed for someone else’s problems or you may be told you’re inadequate by a peer. Dr. White dishes, “Many a dysfunctional person is good at loading guilt on others; ease it off your shoulders.”
5. Don’t take it personally. This one’s huge. In toxic situations, it isn’t easy to gain emotional distance but it definitely can be done. He reveals, “Personal attacks and noxious behavior can jar our equilibrium, but try to gain perspective by considering the source.”