You don’t get to pick your coworkers — which is kind of too bad, considering the huge impact that they can have on your working life. When a coworker, boss, employee or even a regular client is especially difficult, even toxic, it can be a real challenge.
Prolonged exposure to especially negative, unstable, strife-inducing or just plain chaotic people can take a real toll on your emotions and cause a tremendous amount of stress. But, there are some things you can do to help you cope with toxic people at work.
1. Take excellent care of yourself.
When you’re dealing with a toxic person, you need to deal with them from the inside out. If you’re feeling positive, confident, healthy, rested, etc., you’ll be in the best position to handle whatever comes your way. So, make a real effort to take excellent care of yourself right now. The better you feel, the easier it will be to deal with tough people without letting them get to you.
2. Intentionally establish boundaries.
Everyone needs healthy boundaries, all the time. But, it’s especially true when you’re dealing with toxic people. Just because you’re forced to spend time with someone every day, doesn’t mean that you can’t protect yourself.
Consciously decide to keep an emotional distance from challenging people. Even when you do interact, you shouldn’t totally open. Work on disassociating yourself a little. You should still be friendly and positive — but also just a little bit removed.
Researchers have proven that meditation reduces stress, and it’s got many other proven benefits, too. Meditating regularly helps you to remember that negative thoughts come and go. The trick is to let them go rather than focus on them, when they arise.
4. Physically distance yourself.
Emotions are literally contagious. Being around a negative, miserable or unstable person can start to rub off. Before you know it, you’re feeling some of those ways yourself. So, if at all possible, try to physically distance yourself from this person as much as you can. It will make it a lot easier to apply some of the other strategies if you limit your exposure or at lease reduce your proximity.
5. Realize they’re not worried about how this affects you.
There’s no sense in trying to appeal to a toxic person’s compassion. Difficult people often blame everyone but themselves when a problem arises. That’s a big part of the problem. You might think that you can reason with them or try to express how their behavior is impacting you. But, it won’t do any good. They’re not thinking about how this affects you. They’re just worried about themselves. So, don’t waste your time and energy trying to elicit compassion or change via reasonable conversation.
Remember: toxic people aren't thinking about you. It's useless to appeal to their compassion.
6. Redirect yourself toward the positive.
Toxic people can get in your head. So, remember to count your blessings frequently during this time. Think about everything you do enjoy about your job, and talk about those things with other people. Gratitude makes us happier. Practicing it intentionally is a great way to combat toxicity.
7. Rise above.
Don’t allow yourself to be dragged down by irrational behavior. The more off-base the toxic person becomes, the easier this should be. Focus on maintaining your own emotional and intellectual condition rather trying to shift the toxic person’s way of thinking or behaving. Don’t get pulled down by the chaos. You won’t be any good to anyone if you sink into a toxic mindset yourself.
8. Know when and where to draw the line.
If your boundaries are being violated on a regular basis and if you are unable to control the situation no matter how hard you try, you might want to think about filing a complaint. Be professional — don’t let it get personal — and describe what’s been going on succinctly and directly. It’s okay to protect yourself and put your foot down.
9. Focus on solutions.
Think about what you’re going to do to move the situation forward, and then try to let it go. Train yourself to think about solutions, not problems. You won’t do yourself any favors by dwelling. Plan your response, and then move on.
10. When the day is done, get them out of your head.
You probably aren’t going to be able to change the toxic person you’re dealing with at work, but you can control how you react to them. So, when the workday is done, get them out of your head. Don’t obsess about the situation — that will only make it worse. Instead, try to take the emotion out of your response, and let it go. Other people are going to do what they’re going to do. It doesn’t have to upset you.
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