Distance and space can be a great healer.

Employees’ ability to work remotely certainly has pros and cons from many evident perspectives, and there are now countless articles and blogs circulated about the subject. However, what may have been missed is that it alleviates and mitigates those who tend to be toxic to the office environment. While it’s not impossible, it’s a lot harder for employees to be harmful when working remotely. Negativity feeds on an audience. Those who are arrogant and toxic to those around them seek an audience .Without the workplace forum, they find it difficult to satisfy their hunger; however, they will continue to seek out and try to recruit internal cohorts because that’s what they do. So remote employees, be diligent, and on the lookout! Take note; toxic employees have not entirely gone away they’ve just taken a step back to regroup.

Why are some employee’s toxic their environment, whatever form it takes?

Some toxic employees are wholly unaware that they are being poisonous and claim they are just ‘being themselves,’ stubborn, resilient, belligerent. They cloak their negativity as a positive trait; unbeknownst to them, they are only coming across as your everyday jerk. Others are utterly aware of their steps to undermine the environment and attempt to bully and bring down those around them to their base level. That’s what they’ve done throughout their career and likely in other parts of their lives. Very few bother to stand up to them.

In either case, the desire for negativity is a powerful force in a toxic employee’s psyche. Despite the lack of proximity, they will find a way to latch on to anyone willing to become their next victim. Unfortunately, because of their approach, we don’t always see them coming; here are three ways to recognize and deal with a toxic colleague, whether in the office or remote, and keep yourself positive and productive, particularly during the challenging time:

How do you recognize toxicity in the workplace?

  1. Toxic employees are cyclical and like to complain but will typically do so in a passive-aggressive way, beware; they will start with small negative comments to see how you react and build from there if they sense you are on board.
  2. Toxic employees are arrogant, like to brag, and think they are better than everyone else, but much like their complaining, their boasting will be subtle until they gain your confidence, then their bragging will become more overt.
  3. Toxic employees love to gossip and love to latch on to anyone who will listen or provide a channel for their negativity; they must share their negativity with others. Don’t become their confidant!

Strategies for dealing with toxic colleagues:

Complainers

Sometimes it’s not easy to spot a complainer. They will typically do so subtly; they will attempt to draw you into the complaining mode without realizing it. Keep an ear out during the conversation. Often, their complaints will start about something external like the weather, what’s going on in the news, or a client relationship however, it will likely come back to complaining about your company, management, colleagues, or internal issues. If they are a more senior colleague, they are essentially inviting you to begin to complain to endear themselves to you as a cohort. Don’t take the bait; it is a slippery slope and highly unproductive and will likely damage your career in the long run. If you find, or sense, this happening, come back with a positive remark. A positive comeback will likely stop them in their tracks. Most importantly, once you sense they are a complainer, strategy number one, keep a safe distance.

Arrogance

Toxic employees are arrogant. They feel they are carrying the company’s weight on their backs and that everyone is dependent on them for success. Everyone else is lazy, unskilled, and undisciplined. How fortunate we all are to have them on our team! Usually, there is some small truth to what they say; they generally have more experience or lack the self-discipline to create a work-life balance and are certified workaholics and proud of it. They will obfuscate with an outward appearance of team spirit and support, they are the first to congratulate others in public, but it’s a very different story one-on-one. Don’t mistake confidence with arrogance; yea; confidence means one has developed an expertise in their job that doesn’t need an introduction; it shows in their work and how they genuinely treat others particularly under pressure. Those w3ho are arrogant can’t wait to tell you how good they are and turn each conversation towards themselves. Strategy number two, a lot like number one, keep a safe distance.

Gossip

Toxic employees love to gossip. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, ‘Great minds discuss ideas; average minds discuss events; small minds discuss people.’ inevitably, someone who likes to gossip will either begin talking about others or entice you to judge others. Gossip may seem obvious to spot, but not always. Gossip can be challenging to see the start of because the gossiper will likely begin with a positive or neutral comment to draw you in, move to a subtle comparison to others, and finally, a negative judgemental comment about others’ shortcomings, lack of success, or performance. As the conversation turns darker, they will be gauging your reaction to test your limits on your willingness to teach those around you. What’s the best way to deal with gossipers? Strategy number thee, a lot like numbers one and two. Keep a safe distance.

Life is difficult as it is, and now, during this Pandemic, more challenging than ever for those who have been fortunate enough to keep their jobs and soldier on. Being positive takes a lot of self-discipline. I’m not just talking about phone positivity, with empty cheerful emojis and commentary, but real positivity where we show empathy and compassion to those around us, manifesting leadership by overcoming day-to-day challenges that come our way. Some people just have negative DNA and see the world as a ‘zero-sum’ game, so they will find a strange solace in complaining, bragging, and gossiping as well as other toxic behaviour. The better you learn to spot and stay clear of these people, the lighter you will feel; let them carry the weight of negativity on their shoulders instead of trying to pass it on and share it with you. Stay close to those colleagues who, instead of tearing others down, build up those around them and bring light during dark times. There is light at the end of the tunnel; follow those who carry the torch, not lead you into further darkness.

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