Toxic worker

How to deal with different types of toxic co-workers

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Saturday, 26 March 2016 - Last Updated on April 3, 2016
Toxic worker
Toxic worker

Toxic worker

Patty, a merchandising officer has been with the company for six years. She never complained about her work. In fact, she enjoys what she does. She gets along with her manager and colleagues. Everything seemed perfect until her boss introduced a new member in their team.

Patty’s world suddenly turned upside down. In her mind, she calls him the “colleague from hell”. The new employee is so full of negativity that he is affecting the rest of the team. He is sarcastic and pessimistic. He never seems to run out of complaints. Although he is new to the company, he acts as if he knows everything. He is bossy and demanding. Patty can’t stand her new colleague. She feels that he is dragging the whole team down. Patty plans to talk to her manager about the situation. How can people like Patty deal with a toxic co-worker?

A toxic colleague exhibits bad attitude or behavior which negatively affects the people he/she works with and the organization.

Types of toxic co-workers

There are different types of co-workers who are difficult to get along with. Here are some typical profiles to watch out for.

Smooth operator

A smooth operator is someone who likes to wiggle his/her way to the center of the action to get merit. In the Philippine setting, this is someone who likes to carry his/her own “bangko” to get acknowledged.  He/she is the classical “sipsip” in the working place. The smooth operator is never shy. He/she wants the boss to know that he/she is worthy of getting incentives or a promotion. The smooth operator uses every advantage that he/she has in the book to win a pitch, project, job position, etc. The problem with this kind of person is that he/she often neglects his/her current responsibilities because the individual is too busy eyeing the goal.

How to deal with a smooth operator: If you’re a candidate for the same position that the smooth operator is targeting, it’s advisable to quietly assess your boss. If your boss is the egotistical type, the smooth operator might win his/her way to your boss’ good side and snatch that job. If your boss seems like a sensible and fair individual, then you have better chances of earning the job in a rightful manner.

The smooth operator is all talk and show. Don’t let him/her steal credit away from you. Create a paper trail to your advantage. Arm yourself with substantial facts. Keep copies of important documents as proof of your significant work. It won’t hurt if you also do your own promoting. You don’t have to wait at the back seat to be recognized. It can be a positive thing when you focus more about your team’s achievements rather than personal triumphs.

Finger pointer

The finger pointer like what the name suggests is someone who tends to blame others when things don’t work out. This kind of employee likes to play it safe. The finger pointer rarely makes his/her own decision. He/she would often go with the flow or side with the majority. This individual is quick to point the fault on others. He/she would not think twice of squeezing his/her way out of a problem even if it means finding a scapegoat.

The last thing a finger pointer wants is to stain his/her work record or credibility by associating himself/herself with a failed project or poorly executed one. He/she washes his hands like Pontius Pilate and lays the blame on unsuspecting colleagues.

How to deal with a finger pointer: Create a culture of accountability in your team. Every team member should be answerable for accomplishing a certain goal or task. Involve everyone in setting clear and attainable goals and objectives. Monitor the progress of every employee and provide feedback. Don’t let employees who have finger pointer tendencies ride on other people’s accomplishments. Every team member needs to do his/her own work. Everyone is equally responsible for either the success or failure of a task or project. The manager should find ways to recognize employees for good performance.


This employee’s laziness and lack of responsibility become an obstacle for other people in the work place. The procrastinator delays the completion of assigned tasks. He/she has the habit of putting aside work for another day for selfish reasons. He/she pays no attention to priorities. For the procrastinator, tasks are better off done at the last minute unless they get an ultimatum rush request from the boss. Otherwise, he/she would rather take it easy and waste time.

How to deal with a procrastinator: When your work requires a step that goes through the procrastinator, give him/her an earlier deadline. Pretend that you need it done at an earlier date rather than the actual one to lessen risk of delay. Don’t rely on the procrastinator’s word alone. Make it a point to constantly follow-up your request to ensure that it doesn’t get derailed or bumped off by another person’s order.


This employee has nothing better to do but spread rumors around the office. The gossiper likes to sensationalize other people’s mistakes and problems. He/she thrives on office and personal drama. The gossiper likes to talk behind other people’s backs. Spreading negativity is his/her specialty. He/she doesn’t bother to check the facts. The gossiper doesn’t care whether the news can hurt a person.

How to deal with a gossiper: Protect yourself from becoming a victim of the gossip queen or king of the work place by keeping private things to yourself. Do not share sensitive and confidential information with the gossiper. Limit small talk and do not give away anything that he/she can use against you.

Debt collector

Be careful of the debt collector. This individual may initially pretend to be a supportive colleague. He/she might seem willing to offer you help but every little favor comes at a cost. The debt collector likes to keep tab of the things he/she does for you. At some point, this kind of employee expects you to return the favor. There might come a time that this person will pressure you to help him/her even if it means putting you in a precarious position at the workplace.

How to deal with a debt collector: The best thing to do is to avoid getting favors from a debt collector. If you become a victim once, do not let it happen to you again. A debt collector can take advantage of you if you are not extra careful.



Photo from Pixabay.  Public domain.
Rachel Yapchiongco, also known as Rach to her friends, is a Psychology and Marketing Management graduate of De La Salle University. Rachel is a mom to a charming boy and married to an entrepreneur who has a passion for cooking. She shares parenting experiences and slices of everyday life on her personal blog called Heart of Rachel.

Ma. Rachel Yapchiongco (389 Posts)

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