14 Effective and Helpful Ways to Deal With a Toxic Coworker

Last Updated on February 14, 2024 by Lifevif Team and JC Franco

Toxic boss, bad environment in workplace

It doesn’t matter who you are and where you go, you will come across toxic people in life, especially at work. Unfortunately, you don’t get to choose your colleagues or coworkers, which is a pity because who you work with is, usually, who you spend the majority of each and every day with. In terms of mental health, dealing with negative or toxic people on a regular basis can become exhausting, but there are several things you can do to help you cope with these toxic people – especially in the workplace.

Toxic coworkers can really be draining, especially if your effectiveness and productivity hinge on working closely with that particular person. Before leaping into aggressive action (which, in my opinion, should be avoided at all costs), take the tie to try to deal with the problem first. If all fails, it might be time to exit that particular workspace.

Below are simple strategies for dealing with toxic coworkers. By applying these methods, you can truly say that you put in the best possible efforts to overcome the issue. Let’s jump right in. 

14 effective ways to deal with a toxic coworker:

1. Step up your self-care.

When faced with a toxic person in your life, you can expect your stress levels to rise and to feel tired or drained. In order to keep your “game” on track, you need to ensure that you are taking good care of yourself. Minimize stress and boost mental clarity by eating healthy, having long relaxing soaks in the tub, doing some exercise, and limiting alcohol intake. You need to be in peak form to deal with stressful issues in your life. 

2. Scrutinize the situation and recognize your role in the dynamic.

If the toxic behavior displayed by a coworker towards you bothers you, it might be time to take a close look at the situation. How exactly is the coworker treating you, and why does it upset you? Is the behavior in response to you or regardless of you in general? What is your role in this particular dynamic? Are you creating an issue or completely on the outside of the problem? This is not to try and find yourself at fault, but just to ensure that you aren’t contributing to the problem. 

3. Set firm boundaries in place.

If a coworker is treating you badly or crossing a line with you, put them nicely in their place by setting firm boundaries. You don’t have to be brutal about it, but just be firm. For instance, if a coworker is consistently mocking you in front of other colleagues, calmly mention that the behavior really upsets you and that you will be forced to take it further with superiors if it continues. You could always ask for the behavior to stop before ever mentioning superiors, of course.

4. Practice avoidance tactics as much as possible.

Just because you work with someone, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend a lot of time with them. Make sure that you spend as little time as possible with said person. If the toxic coworker follows a schedule with regards to coffee and lunch breaks, make sure that you’re not around to share those. Keep your contact with the toxic coworker to an absolute minimum. 

5. Maintain a sense of calm and a level head in all scenarios (rise above it).

If a toxic coworker is really pushing your buttons, you might feel tempted to tell them off or become angry and aggressive. Resist this urge, with all your might. It will only make you look bad if you lose your cool in a situation with such a person. Breathe, stay calm, and only make level headed remarks.

6. Stand up for yourself.

Don’t let someone at work push you around or bully you. Of course, you don’t want to be oversensitive to someone else’s behavior. Not everything requires a reaction, but if someone is consistently stepping on your toes or bullying you, you must stand up for yourself. Confront the person, set the record straight, or take the problem to your boss

7. Keep engagement strictly professional (practice professional friendliness).

If you find someone particularly toxic, they probably exude negativity. You might have to deal with this person on a professional level, but there is absolutely no requirement for you to personally connect with the person. Keep your conversations concise and strictly about work. Give a toxic coworker exactly the same level of professional friendliness as you would to an unknown colleague. Keep it all about work. 

8. Don’t overthink it.

overthinking from working at the office

If you let the behavior of a toxic person hijack your thoughts and emotions, it’s going to take its toll on your mental health and job satisfaction. See the situation for what it is and don’t dwell on it; practice focusing on more positive and value-adding things in your work life

9. Set healthy coping mechanisms in place.

As mentioned before, toxic coworkers can cause stress and anxiety levels to rise. It’s important to have a few good coping mechanisms in place to ensure that another person’s behavior and actions don’t put your career and professionalism at risk. 

A few good coping mechanisms include repeating a list of positive affirmations over the course of the day, practicing meditation and mindfulness, heading out for a walk on your break, clearing your head by listening to upbeat music, and doing a crossword puzzle to get your mind off it. Just find ways to distract your mind from the situation.

10. Have a conversation.

If you would like to nip the problem in the bud, you can consider having a direct conversation with the toxic coworker. Don’t make it a public scene…rather ask if you can speak privately and address the situation head-on. Don’t use aggressive or antagonistic language. Rather find out if there is anything you are doing wrong to cause the problem and if there is a way to restore a positive attitude and approach between the two of you.

11. Don’t become the problem you are trying to escape. 

If your toxic coworker complains and moans about everything or causes trouble for other staff members continuously, be careful not to become that very person yourself while trying to cope with the problem. Don’t waste time moaning and complaining about the person, and don’t try to sabotage their position by immediately approaching management. Try to deal with the situation personally before you take it further. 

12. Try up the positive vibe in the workspace (team building).

Toxic people can be very negative people. They typically have a cynical and negative worldview. This doesn’t mean that they cannot realize the error in their ways and make a change. You could choose to lead by example by upping the positive vibe in the workplace. Display appreciation for others, have a cheerful disposition, encourage others to be kind to each other and to work together as a happy team… you might just inspire some positive change. 

13. If you must escalate the issue, follow the correct procedure.


If the situation reaches a point where you just cannot handle it anymore, you might want to take it further. Do you go straight to the top; moaning, ranting, and complaining? That’s not a good idea. Rather find out what the correct company procedure is for escalating such a problem and follow it to the letter. Don’t make it personal. Make it about business and what’s best for the team.

14. Exit the workspace if the toxicity cannot be avoided or resolved. 

If you are finding that you are surrounded by toxic people, or there is no way to work around the negative work environment and people, it’s time to remove yourself from the situation. If you try to stick it out, it will eventually take its toll on you and your overall mental health. Follow the correct exit procedure and find yourself a more positive and uplifting place to work. 

Last Word

Dealing with a toxic coworker can be hard work, but there is hope! If you apply the abovementioned strategies, you could just turn the situation around. Keep a level head and do what has to be done.

JC Franco

JC Franco is a New York-based editor for Lifevif. He mainly focuses on content about faith, spirituality, personal growth, finance, and sports. He graduated from Mercyhurst University with a Bachelor’s degree in Business, majoring in Marketing. He is a certified tennis instructor who teaches in the New York City Metropolitan area. In terms of finance, he has passed the Level I exam of the CFA program.