Toxic Colleagues: Warning Signs and Tips to Resist Manipulations

7 min read

Who can honestly say that they have never come across toxic people at work at a certain point in their lives? We have all been there. But it’s not because this is a widespread issue that it should be treated with a shrug and a “well, that’s just how things are” attitude. 

At Devexperts we proud ourselves on having a safe and healthy work environment in all our offices across the globe. Our work culture is built on pillars such as transparency, open communication, and accountability, leaving no room for toxic behaviours of any kind.  

Unfortunately, not all workplaces are like this, and the truth is that there is still much work to be done on this topic. 

report by Cornerstone OnDemand shows that good employees are 54% more likely to quit their jobs when they have to work with a toxic colleague. Toxic coworkers are also clear influences on stress and burnout levels among their teams, suggesting a more negative effect on performance than day-to-day task completion. 

And how does this toxicity manifest at the workplace? 

The most common toxic behaviours 


It may not seem that harmful at first but unchecked gossip at work can seriously undermine any team and create unnecessary conflicts. In addition, gossiping suppresses transparency, which leads to a decrease in the employee’s loyalty. 

Constant criticism and depreciation of another person’s contribution 

It doesn’t matter the work you do; it won’t ever be good enough for this particular person. There is a constant onslaught of criticism from them, be it open or thinly veiled. Their aggressiveness can manifest itself as disguised insults, cynical tirades, silent treatments, among others. 

Competition out of control 

Colleagues who have no problems claiming credit for another person’s achievements, who constantly downplay the work of others and seek the spotlight only to them. These are the “glory seekers” you need to beware of, those with no morals to match their ambitions. 

Lack of accountability 

The ones who run away from responsibility and who don’t shy away from throwing colleagues under the bus. The experts in making excuses and blaming others when things go wrong. They usually also have a hard time accepting constructive feedback and any perspectives outside their own. 

Endless complaining 

The draining spiral of complaints can drag many down, especially the more empathetic employees who can’t help but lend an ear to their never-ending problems. 


When the stream of criticism becomes nonstop and you always find yourself on the receiving end of humiliations, hostile attacks, and/or full-on intimidation. This type of behaviour demands serious actions to be taken. 

Tips and Strategies to Deal with Toxic Colleagues 

1. Learn your own triggers 

You cannot be expected to deal with all of outside toxicity if you don’t know what your triggers are. Be self-aware and learn about what makes you upset. Take a good look at what makes you feel most vulnerable in the workplace and remember how you’ve felt and reacted to similar difficult work situations in the past.  

Was there something you would have done differently? Is there something you feel that you still need to work on to feel more impervious to toxicity? 

You can’t change the past, but you can use it to know how to do it and be better for yourself in the future. 

2. Practice emotional distancing 

Respond with short answers and try to remove emotion as much as possible from your interactions. Bullies want to see a reaction from their targets, often because they need to belittle others to feel good about themselves. 

Showing no signs of being affected by their toxic behaviour can turn their own actions against themselves. Strip away their power by keeping your own control over how you react to the situation. 

This can be easier for some people than for others, but one thing remains true to everyone: you can’t control what others do to you. You can only control how you react to them and these situations. 

3. Set boundaries 

Your energy is your most precious resource. This is particularly important to remember when dealing with complainers. A way to turn the conversation around is by simply asking them what they are doing to improve their problematic situations. Also: you are under no obligation to be the listener to other people’s stream of negativity. 

4. Choose your battles 

Not all fights are worth fighting for. Sometimes you must take a more strategic approach and choose to stand your ground some other time. Let them have this small victory while you save your energy for more important battles. 

5. Resist getting involved in office politics 

Toxic workplaces are perfect breeding grounds for gossipers. Steer away from these weavers of intrigue before it entangles you into serious problems.  

6. Get your facts in writing 

If you think that certain occurrences with your toxic coworker can lead to speculation or different personal interpretations, be sure to record the facts for later. This can help you later to present your situation as it is and not be twisted by the words of others. Better be safe than sorry.  

7. Share your burdens 

You don’t have to go through all of this alone. Handling toxic people every day can be very emotionally draining and damaging in the long run. This is why it helps to have someone you can talk to who can give you some needed outside perspective. 

Reach out to your HR department about this so you can get the guidance you need. Going to HR doesn’t need to mean an escalation of the situation but simply serves as a way for you to talk about what you are experiencing and receive advice from qualified people who really know the company. 

Do you have a mentor? Such an individual could be just the right person to reach out to for situations like this. They will have years of professional experience under their belt that will surely give you some much-needed perspective and guidance in these matters. 

And you probably can always count on that work colleague who knows exactly what you are going through with that person again.