How to survive in a toxic work environment

Most of us have been there.  A work environment with a person who is just plain old unpleasant to be around.  Maybe it is the extremely negative person who always points out the worst of every situation.  Maybe it is the person who constantly has to cut others down in order to make themselves feel better.  If you are lucky, you work in an environment where this unhealthy behavior is addressed by management.  If you work in an environment where this type of destructive behavior is allowed to continue, this blog post is for you.

We must start by recognizing nastiness for what it is.  A projection of the individuals psychological state on the external world.  If you work with someone who always sees the flaw or fault in your ideas, do your best to not take it personally.  People like this are like this.  At home, at work, at school; they are like this.  You think it is difficult to work with them; you should try living with them.  The best way to approach a situation like this is with compassion. This person is deeply unhappy.  This habit you see of them pointing out the negative speaks to their cognitive processing of events.  They always see the negative.  When you realize this is a personality trait like an annoying laugh, it is easier to just ignore the behavior and continue about your day.

Another projection we often see is caused by the ego state of the coworker.  Maybe they are always putting other people down.  At first you might even think it is witty and chalk it up to a twisted sense of humor.  As time passes you might realize it is more than that.  The person is just cutting and cruel.  Other people are always the butt of their jokes and the nasty comments flow freely.  Sometimes it is more the arrogant tone than the comments themselves.  This person can be very difficult to work with, especially if his or her behavior is tolerated by management.  The best thing to do here is realize this person is just toxic and should be avoided at all costs.  They are so caught up in their ego state they will never even be able to recognize their hurtful words or actions have any impact on others.  Don't try to change the behavior.  Having a heart to heart will be fruitless.  Learn to let this person's comments roll off you like rain drops on newly washed glass. Just move past it and never allow yourself to sink to their level.  When you have to deal with them, to kill them with kindness is the best avenue.  That way when they make their nasty remarks about you, others will see this person for who he or she is.

The passive-aggressive co-worker might be one of the worst of the toxic types.  This person is seemingly sweet as pie.  His or her words appear to be kind and supportive, but after you talk to them for any length of time, you feel terrible.  At first you do not even connect what the person said with the way you are feeling. This person is usually pretty intelligent and intentionally manipulating the situation in a very subtle way.  At times, they are not even aware they are doing it.  More likely though it is intentional and well placed.  The effects of this behavior is just as damaging as the blatant hurtful words. Here confronting the person on the behavior in a calm and respectful manner might actually make a difference.  The passive-aggressive person hides their aggressive behavior in their passive comments and gentle tone.  Once you are flat out talking about it, there is nothing passive for them to hide behind.  You will likely get an apology and a BS excuse for the "misunderstanding". While this is not guaranteed to stop the behavior in the future, most likely this person will find another person to play their manipulative games with. For you that equals problem solved!

These are just some of the personality challenges you will find in the modern work environment.  By remembering we are not able to change other people we can stay strong and focus on our professional responsibilities instead of the personalities in the workplace.  Remember, the only person you have the power to change is yourself.  The best way to reduce the nastiness of the work environment is to ensure you are not part of the problem.