About a toxic work environment and how to handle it

If you have ever been working in a toxic environment, you know how it draws all energy from you. It’s stressful, tiring and often enough the reason for a lack of motivation in your job – even resulting in decreasing your well-being in your personal life. But what’s the reason for it and is there any chance to change it?

What’s creating a toxic workplace?

A recent survey from leadership development experts at Fierce Inc. asked around 1000 employees for reasons for a disturbed work environment. The majority agreed on the negative attitude of a team-member (or their boss) having the biggest impact on them. Whether the co-worker is just a lazy sloth, a “Naysayer” complaining the whole time or blaming others for own mistakes, it’s pulling down the rest of the team.
Interesting enough though, about 75% believe that special skills could not compensate a person’s negativity.

So, what’s the consequences

You’d think that – since there is no way to make up for it – co-workers would love to get rid of the grouch. Suprisingly, only one quarter consider firing the colleague to be the best solution.
However, confronting the grumbler is not an option either. 80% believe that a confrontation, either done by themselves or executives, is unlikely to change the situation.
If you think about it, the result sounds pretty devastating. It translates as doing nothing and accepting a decreased morale and productivity in the team, maybe even quitting a normally satisfying job.

How to handle a toxic team member

If you ever sat in an office, where no one was speaking, smiling and you felt you could cut through the tense air around you, you know it’s something you wouldn’t want in your job. For us, this would not be an option either! Especially when you’re working in a small team, one negative team member would likely ruin the whole work atmosphere.

Thus, we created some tips how to handle a negative co-worker.

  • Don’t let your emotions overwhelm you

You might feel the urge to stand up to try to make things better. Probably, this will worsen the situation though. Confronting a colleague could end up in a very unprofessional approach which becomes too emotional (and is very one-sided). This way, you might offend someone without improving the situation.
Another option was if you feel like cheering up the colleague daily to help the atmosphere in your office. This is a big responsibility which will probably overwhelm you.

That’s why, in consequence:

  • Talk to your boss or a mediator

Leaders normally have been trained to handle a team and their issues. In bigger and modern companies, there is alternatively a mediator / feel-good-manager for improving the atmosphere. Make an appointment and address the problem, without nagging. It’s important to professionally describe the discrepancy with your colleague and to be able to name it. Thus, the responsible executive can act accordingly to solve the situation, for example through a one-on-one dialogue and an open team meeting.


If this doesn’t help, well, you could still bring cake to work. This way, at least you’ll have something delicious & sweet to calm your nerves and keep the spirit up – or have a chance to mute the Naysayer for at least a couple of minutes.

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