Can you trust your co-workers?  Trust is a key element of success in any company and it only takes one ‘toxic’ coworker to break the trust of your entire team.

Toxic coworkers can take many different forms: the bully, the manipulator, the dictator, or the gossiper. A toxic coworker is generally someone who feels insecure in their position and therefore may resort to extreme behaviors as a way to cast themselves in a more favorable light with the boss. The key to working with a toxic coworker is to make them feel safe in their position. This can be a hard situation, but there are a few strategies you can do to help protect yourself from such a co-worker:

  1. Keep your mouth-shut. Do not give-in to the toxic co-worker. By becoming aggressive and engaging in the conversation you give them ammunition to use against you. This can only hurt the professional brand that you’ve worked so hard to create. Be professional and polite at all times. Do not complain. Maintain your character by not constantly complaining to other teammates and risk becoming branded as a trouble-maker yourself.
  1. Exceed performance expectations. Rise above it. Prove yourself a valuable asset to the company over and over again and your boss will most likely ignore any gossip or trouble that comes across their desk.
  1. Don’t fight fire with fire. Do not retaliate with toxic behavior of your own. You will only loose the respect your fellow teammates have for you. Toxic behavior is counterproductive― instead of reflecting positive qualities, it creates animosity and effects everyone’s productivity and happiness. Set an example of professionalism, no matter what.
  1. You must control your temper. Take a time-out and step back from the situation before you confront a defensive coworker. Your coworker thrives on attention, and will often expect others to react the way they do. Change this dynamic by using more open language and positive criticism. If you respond with anger and aggression, this will only fuel their fight.
  1. Protect yourself. Do not be naive―watch your step and be on guard when you interact with this co-worker. Use a strong password on your computer, and do everything “by the book.” Keep things confidential. Keep things professional. If things get sticky, document everything and bring your boss (and only your boss) into the mix.

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