Social & Interpersonal Skills

5 Types Of Toxic Coworkers & How To Deal With Them

Do you know that all it takes to ruin the entire work culture in a department or an organization is just one toxic coworker?

You’ll find constant disagreement, strife, politics, and just having to waste time on unnecessary things rather than focusing on what is important; getting the work done! 

If you work in the corporate sector and have been at it for a while, you’re bound to have come across or at least heard stories of a toxic coworker.

According to an article from Forbes, four out of five employees currently work or have worked with a potentially toxic coworker.

Every organization has them and today we’ll be discussing the different types of toxic coworkers, how they impact the workplace, and more importantly what you can do to deal with them.

5 Types Of Toxic Coworkers

Spotlight Stealers

By far one of the most common types of toxic coworkers, that we’ve all encountered at one point or another in our corporate careers. 

You’ll find yourself discussing an idea or strategy with a coworker, just innocently bouncing off ideas. Your coworker will tell you that an idea is bad or will poke holes in it until you lose your confidence, only to find that the same coworker brings up your idea themselves and impresses the boss, leaving you flabbergasted.

In some instances, spotlight stealers will hear a good idea from you, tell you it’s good, and then run to the boss and present it as their own. 

Sometimes it’s not even idea stealing. A coworker that you’re collaborating with on a project, could later present as having spearheaded the entire thing. A sale that you’ve worked hard on with a colleague could be shown to your boss as a solo victory. To learn more on how to deal with someone who is stealing sales check out this article.

Such coworkers will also trivialize your wins and successes, yet boast loudly when they achieve equal, or even less. 

Read More: 20 Signs You Are Being Sabotaged At Work


Microaggressions have a huge impact on employees and some coworkers engage in such behavior to give rise to such events. Microaggressions are a broad category and can include both spoken and unspoken behavior, direct and indirect.

They will feed into different stereotypes around gender and race, even if they may not be overtly offensive or racist. An example is when a woman in the workplace is being treated in a patronizing manner and being called “sweetie”.

Both the patronization and usage of the term “sweetie” are separate acts of microaggression even if they involve the same person and are based off of a single factor which in this instance is gender.


The occasional gossip or chit-chat about an employee or another department is to be expected, especially if it revolves around a significant event. It’s after all human nature to share information.

However, you will come across the occasional coworker who gossips a bit too much or won’t leave any conversation unfinished without a scandalous detail or comment. It wouldn’t be surprising that such coworkers also spread lies just for the sake of keeping the gossip and conversation alive.

Such people often engage in this behavior to feel important and to compensate for their lack of contribution to work. It can also stem from low self-esteem and attention-seeking. 

This shouldn’t be an excuse for their behavior though, but should rather be used to understand only. You shouldn’t enable or encourage a toxic coworker’s behavior for any reason whatsoever, as it will hurt workplace morale.

Read More: 10 Smart Ways To Deal With Coworkers Who Watch Your Every Move


Simply put, bystanders are people who will watch everything wrong happen to you and just stay quiet. It’s like an ostrich with its head in the sand, no matter how many ideas get stolen, how much gossip spreads, or how many microaggressions get thrown at you.

Bystanders will also be dismissive if you try to discuss your own experience with another toxic coworker. Saying things like “I’m sure they’re not that sort of person” or making some other excuse to not give validity to your concerns.

Bystanders will only speak up when they experience any toxic behavior and then might even use your experiences to back p what they’re saying. Until then, they will stay quiet, to safeguard their job and position, both in the organization and its social hierarchy.


It’s ok to not be completely satisfied with every single thing in your workplace, and the occasional venting or complaining about something serious is also understandable. However, at times you’ll find people who constantly complain and this too is a very toxic trait among coworkers.

If the constant complaining from this person doesn’t just frustrate you, it most definitely will have an impact on your perspective and productivity. Negativity is not good, either in the workplace or in your personal life, and a complainer is someone who is just all-the-way negative.

They will not find satisfaction with anything, be it the office environment, workload, ideas, or anything else. 

What Impact Does A Toxic Colleague Have On the Workplace?

A toxic colleague brings down morale, plain and simple. No matter the type of toxic coworker, their behavior is bound to hurt an individual and even at a group level.

Gossipers and their lies can cause personal differences among coworkers, while microaggressors will make employees lose confidence and focus. A complainer will frustrate you and turn you into a negative person, and a spotlight stealer will make you feel downright depressed.

Once too many people get affected at an individual level, the entire system gets affected. It’s like rot that spreads slowly and weakens everything. 

How To Deal With Toxic Coworkers?

Dealing With Spotlight Stealers

The best way of dealing with someone who steals the spotlight is to confront but do it with a bit of flair and charm. 

If you’re in a meeting and your idea gets stolen, a small comment along the lines of “I’m glad you liked my idea from earlier, and if I can add something to it” would go a long way.

It also helps if you’re a bit cautious in your approach from the beginning. You don’t need to share every detail of every idea. Keep your cards close, and you’ll automatically know when to use them at the right time.

Also, at times you’ll need to make an active effort to make sure your contributions to work are recognized. Otherwise, anyone can take credit for work that has been done with very little effort.

Dealing With Microaggressors

If you come across any such behavior, you should go and speak to your superior and try to open communication with such a toxic coworker.

Make sure you are heard and are clear in describing your experience and how it made you feel to ensure that it does not happen again.

Use direct communication and make the coworker understand that their behavior is not appreciated in the slightest. At times, coworkers are unaware that they are committing a microaggression, so by being clear and direct in your communication you could also be educating them to improve their behavior.

Dealing With Gossipers

Just be prepared. Try to identify the office gossipers as soon as you can and be careful with what you say around these people. Have scripts prepared if needed and even use them to your advantage to get a good word about someone spread around. 

Although chances are even a good word about someone will be twisted by someone who gossips.

You could also try changing the topic to something a bit more general when talking to such people. If they start discussing something salacious about another coworker, change the topic to sports or weekend plans or anything that takes the focus away from gossip.

Dealing With Bystanders

The most important thing in dealing with bystanders is to manage your expectations. You shouldn’t be surprised if someone isn’t empathizing with your situation, even if they have experienced it themselves in the past.

You can try communicating with them, relating to their experiences, and then helping them see how they could empathize with you. However, again, don’t expect that to have the best results and you could even further damage the relationship.

So, manage your expectations and assess the people around you. With bystanders, it’s best to just protect yourself and stay cautious, ensuring your behavior is always acceptable, ethical, and professional. 

Dealing With Complainers

With a constant complainer, you could first try sympathizing and lending an ear to listen. However, if you feel the complaining isn’t an instance, but rather a behavior, then you could try to rearrange their perspective on things.

If that fails too, then just try to deflect as you would with a gossip monger. Change the topic to something a bit more general and it’ll be easier for you to get through the conversation.

Final Thoughts

Dealing with a toxic coworker can bring you down and make working in an organization difficult. However, it doesn’t have to be. Using our guide, you can weave your way through dealing with coworkers you don’t like or are negatively impacting your performance and vibe. 

Read More: Reasons Your Coworker Gets Away With Everything (And Tips To Deal With It)

About Author

Founder of With over 20 years of experience in HR and various roles in corporate world, Jenny shares tips and advice to help professionals advance in their careers. Her blog is a go-to resource for anyone looking to improve their skills, land their dream job, or make a career change.

No Comments

    Leave a Reply