5 Ways to Deal With Toxic People

Are you surrounded by the Seven Dysfunctional Dwarfs: Sulky, Moan-y, Shout-y, Crabby, Martyr-y, Touchy and Petulant? These evil creatures make your life more difficult and prevent you from living fully into your potential.

Trouble is, they’re our co-workers…

I remember in an office where I once worked, the accountant was, to put it kindly, a Negative Nelly. She would slam her pencil down, say something really unpleasant, then storm through the office cursing under her breath. Lunchtimes for her were, shall we say, liquid. I doubt she would be retained in a workplace today; this was years ago.

Her job was done on time and competently and, fortunately, she was in an area by herself so we were only blessed with her rants a couple of times a week. But still – that is no way to behave in the workplace.

She had a terrible problem and it was horrible to be around her because Nothing. Ever. Went. Right! She reminded me of Oscar the Grouch – he is happiest when nothing goes right. Then he can grouch to his heart’s content. You’ll never make him happy in the conventional sense because for him, grouchy = happy.

What the office didn’t know was that her elderly mother was at home dying. She was her mother’s sole support and caregiver and had to be in the office instead of by her mother’s bedside where she knew she belonged.  Circumstances were running her life, she felt helpless, frustrated and angry. And she took it out on everyone around her.

She was toxic. And I bet you know others that are toxic. You can’t always choose your teammates; you may not have a choice whether to interact with them. Yet, there they are. How do you manage?

5 Ways to Deal with Toxic People

  • Don’t take it personally. This is their problem and the fact that you are in the line of fire has nothing to do with who you are as a person. It’s not about you; it’s about their inability to self-manage.
  • Have compassion. They are struggling too. You do not know their backstory. You do not have the inside scoop on their personality. Life is not always simple or easy. When in doubt, give them a break.
  • Take care of yourself. Just because you take a compassionate perspective does not mean you should be a doormat. Do what you need to strengthen your boundaries. If you know things are worse right after lunch, schedule your meetings for those times and get out of the way. If they become abusive, report them. Be sure your needs are met.
  • Know that it’s not up to you. You are not responsible for anyone but yourself. It’s not your job to try to fix or change them. That’s an impossible task anyway. The only person you can fix is yourself, and Lord knows that’s challenge enough!
  • Be a positive role model. If you are reacting at the same level as the toxic person, take a look in the mirror and stare into the eyes of the other toxic person. As Michele Obama said, “When they go low, we go high.” Rise above. Set a higher standard and live it.

These are simple things to say and not always easy to do.  Toxic people are always around us. And yes, we can be toxic as well when life feels like it’s run clean out of control. You don’t have to tolerate it, and you do have to survive.

It helps to rally support.  Find someone removed from the situation to vent and brainstorm with, someone that can offer a different perspective. This is a great situation to use the services of a coach.

If you need support, I can help you with that.  Contact me and let’s see if we’re a good fit.  And I’d love to hear your stories of how you handled toxic people.  Leave a comment below!


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