How to Keep Toxic Co-Workers from Poisoning Your Career

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I think we can all agree that toxic co-workers lead to a toxic work environment.

But what do we do about it?

While we can’t control other people’s actions, there are several techniques you can use to keep yourself from losing it while maintaining your work productivity. The majority of these things are based on mental strategy, making them unusually helpful because they rely on you and you alone.

Although it can be difficult to be the bigger person 100% of the time, keeping your cool is always in the best interest of your career, and these strategies will help you do just that.

[easy-tweet tweet=”It can be difficult to be the bigger person, but keeping your cool is always best interest of your career!”]


It’s easy to let a toxic co-worker lead you down the path of sadness for hours or even days after their disruptive – or sometimes downright mean – behavior, but it’s important to resist that temptation. Instead, remind yourself that the problem lies within them; not you.

I remember working with a nurse who always seemed to find fault in EVERYTHING I did! I used to go home beating myself up and wondering if I had what it took to be a good nurse. Finally, one day a wise older physician saw how she treated me. He pulled me aside and told me to NEVER let a toxic person bring me to tears or make me feel badly about myself. I took his advice and stopped taking her ridiculous criticism personally.

As Elayne Savage says in her book on not taking things personally, “It’s easy to think behavior is about us, when it is really about the other person.” A great way to accomplish this is to imagine an emotional wall between you and the disrupter. You may have to work with them, but you don’t have to invite them into the sacred space that is your mind!

[easy-tweet tweet=”Don’t let a toxic person drag you down! Their behavior is a reflection of them; not you! #staypositive”]


Not just geographically speaking either. Steering clear of someone who causes you stress (when possible) is certainly recommended, but even more important is not getting close to them on an emotional level.

At some point, it’s likely that the negative person will say something that resonates with you and it will be tempting for you to join in on their session of negativity, but don’t do it. Don’t even sympathize with them. Once you’ve bonded with a negative person they’ll see you as a partner in distress and will seek you out the next time they’re upset and feel like complaining.

This presents two problems. The obvious being that they see you as a tool to use at their disposal and the second being that you’re now aboard someone’s ship of negativity and it won’t take long for that sucker to sink. It’s best to resist this all together, and combat their negativity with your own positive attitude!


If someone is rude to you at work, they’re probably rude to quite a few other people as well, so remind yourself it isn’t just you they’re mistreating. It’s important to remind yourself you’re not crazy and you’re not the problem on a regular basis.

If that isn’t enough don’t hesitate to reach out to someone you trust!

“Unfortunately, annoying coworkers are a hidden reality from most job descriptions,” says workplace legal expert and former prosecutor Robin Bond. “Sometimes the best remedy is trading stories with a close friend [outside of the office] and finding humor and comfort in knowing you’re not alone.” 

In addition, try to surround yourself with positive, friendly people at the office to counteract the toxic person’s effect on you.

[easy-tweet tweet=”Do your best to surround yourself with positive, friendly people at work and at home! #nurseadvice”]


Unfortunately, there are plenty of toxic people that aren’t reprimanded despite the circumstances.

Babs Ryan, author of America’s Corporate Brain Drain, says you may have just one option in the end. “If you work with a toxic coworker, your only choice may be to leave as quickly as possible — especially if the company supports that bully repeatedly and has already exited several of the bully’s targets.”

If you’ve done everything in your power to not allow a toxic co-worker to get to you, including involving Human Resources, but haven’t had any luck, it’s probably time to walk away. Life truly is too short to live it around people with no respect for themselves or others.

I know first hand how difficult it can be dealing with someone who has no desire to be a positive human, or even behave appropriately. If this is something you’ve struggled with it may be time to step outside of the box and begin celebrating nursing again!

Take care. Be kind. Stay connected.

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