How to Excel When You Have Toxic Co-workers

The only person you can control is yourself, so start ignoring the obnoxious person in the next cubicle.

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By Heather Gray


Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Toxic co-workers can be team and performance killers. Whether or not they succeed is up to you.

We call these people toxic for a reason. Their negativity spreads across teams like cancer. Their presence often feels out of anyone's control other than the employer's. They can do what they want, say what they want, and nothing can be done. Anger, resentment and chronic frustration are fueled across the team, with everyone giving it life, energy and attention.

This makes it easy to create the excuse that a toxic co-worker is holding you back. You can't be as productive as you want because they are holding you up. You'd be much happier at work if they would just stop gossiping.

You start to give this story life by collecting examples of their toxicity. You're getting less and less done because your focus is suddenly on the wrong thing.

The thing is it is possible to excel, thrive and succeed in the most toxic of environments.

Who do you want to be regardless of how this person behaves?

Is this behavior so disruptive that you want to bring it to your supervisor's attention? Is it something you care deeply enough about that you want to address the person directly about your concerns?

If yes, good for you. Go ahead, and tackle the problem directly.

If not, good for you too. You just got yourself unstuck. You had a choice and chose not to let this person bother you. You are no longer trapped. You are no longer a victim of their toxicity.

Before reacting, ask yourself this one question.

Will this response bring me closer to my goals or further away? Sure, you can start texting or messaging a fellow co-worker and complain about how someone is slacking. But does that get you closer to who you want to be or further away?

You can most definitely send an email detailing the way this person slowed down your project. But does that bring you closer to who and how you want to be or further away?

Related: 5 Types of Toxic Employees and How to Deal With Them (Infographic)

Before you react, line up your instinctive response against who you want to be and see if they line up.

Acknowledge that the only person you have control over is you.

Stop focusing on the other person. What are your goals here? What are you hoping to accomplish? Put the toxic person's noise in the background of your day. Make working around the obstacles they create non-negotiable for yourself, and figure it out.

Related: To Avoid Hiring a Toxic Employee, Look for These 6 Qualities (Infographic)

You want to be successful. You want to get the job done well. Given that this person is an immoveable object in your day, how are you going to work around them to meet your goals?

Tell your supervisors what you think.

The reason toxic people take up so much time and attention is that their behavior triggers a fear that their negativity will win and the good guys will finish last.

Related: 4 Signs of a Terrible, Toxic Boss

If you want to ensure your success, stop worrying about what your bosses will think of you, and simply tell them what you want them to think.

You don't have to wait for someone to notice your achievements, and you don't have to broadcast them either. Instead, show people what you've completed, achieved and accomplished. Your efficiency and performance will shine.

Suck it up.

Beginning. Middle. End. Anywhere you go in life, there will be trolls, haters, divas and slackers. You're going to have to decide who you're going to be in spite of them. You are going to have decide where you allocate your energy and focus. In the words of George Lucas, "Your focus determines your reality."

Decide what it is you want, and go after it. The only thing standing in your way isn't your toxic co-worker. It's you.

Heather Gray

Executive Coach

Heather Gray works with successful entrepreneurs and executives who did everything right. They landed the job and climbed the ladder but success doesn't feel as great as they'd imagined and they just aren’t happy. Heather helps professionals find the missing piece to their happiness. Heather is an executive coach and therapist with 16 years experience, an avid football fan, and has decided that boxing is her soulmate workout. Follow her blog and find her on FacebookInstagram, and Twitter.

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