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Work Productivity and Hacks

12 Ways To Handle Toxic People At Work

By Joseph Cueto on February 2, 2015

Wait! Stop! Before you start reading this article, please check your surroundings. The toxic person at work whose job description seemingly includes “tormenting you” may not like it. Heck, it could probably further infuriate him or her, adding to the seemingly dark cloud of negativity they carry along when they act in a toxic way.

These are the people who can act like your run-of-the-mill teleserye villain – doling out gossip like it was an Olympic sport, scheming selfish plans, conflict-creating, shaming others, and (feel free to add another action word here based on your experience).

What can you do about these...unique individuals? Before shifting into victim mode (“Woe is me!”) or wishing a fairy godmother to turn them into frogs, the good news is you can do some things – a lot actually – by taking a cue from this article by Dr. Travis Bradberry, author and President at TalentSmart, where he outlines 12 strategies used by successful people while adding one more important point to keep in mind – you are in control of far more than you realize:

1. Set limits (especially with complainers)

Since complainers and negative people are fond of extending an invitation to their pity party to unload about how they feel and in return, feel better, successful people draw the line when necessary, knowing the difference between taking the time to listen to toxic people versus getting burdened by their need to vent. Dr. Bradberry suggests asking “How do you intend to fix the problem?” to break up the pity party.

2. Don’t die in the fight

Not all battles are worth fighting for. Remember that not every interaction that pushes your buttons is a battleground, unless the situation calls for one to speak up when necessary.

3. Rise above

Distance yourself emotionally. Sure, you can take a few cracks at hearing out their thoughts but you have a choice to respond only to facts and valid points made.

4. Stay aware of your emotions

Know and see how you feel. Taking control of your emotions prevents you from reactive and sometimes regrettable behavior.

5. Establish boundaries

Set and maintain your boundaries and make sure they are clear to those around you. Yes, this is an area that is under your control.

6. Don’t let anyone limit your joy

Your happiness is not derived from the opinions of people around you – toxic or otherwise. You alone are the cause of your own happiness and well-being. This doesn’t mean being oblivious to different points of view, but one can truly be happy only when one takes proactive steps to cultivate happiness within.

7. Don't focus on problems — only solutions

What you focus on grows. Stop focusing on the number of times this difficult person has been for the past week or year and work on finding solutions to employ in dealing with the problem.

8. Don’t forget

Yes, successful people, in handling toxic people, can let go and are quick to forgive erring officemates, but it doesn’t mean they forget. They don't bear a grudge forever; it is just a means of not being hampered by past faults.

9. Squash negative self-talk

Your thoughts are powerful, so it would be best to feed yourself an ample diet of positive self-talk. Be your own best friend and best teammate.

10. Limit caffeine intake

Caffeine can put you in fight-or-flight mode, putting rational thinking in the backseat in favor of a knee jerk reaction.

11. Get some sleep

Get more acquainted with your bed via some much-needed shut eye. It helps increase your emotional quotient (EQ) and tones down your stress levels. We all know how being sleep-deprived makes us feel, right?

12. Have a support system

Ask for help because valuable help is available in the form of caring friends and teammates who have your best interests in mind. Never overlook the words of encouragement and the added perspective your support system can bring.

Try out these strategies these coming days and hopefully, a more harmonious relationship with these folks at the office will head your way.

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