A wise way to handle your toxic colleagues

Photo by Aliya Amangeldi on Unsplash

Transparency and teamwork support company morale and performance, but what if you’re dismissed, undermined or outright attacked when you try to share?

Having allies in the right places is one of your most potent resources. And if you don’t, or they have more? If you need or want to work with them—

Step 1: Wise up and be the bigger person

You’re not to blame but you are responsible. This step is about supercharging your emotional self-management.

Note: It’s human nature to resist this when you (and many others) see the other party as guilty. If you’re not quite ready, skip to Step 2.

Get clear on how you feel about things. Then take a hard look at your part in the dynamic. This may take time and the support of an objective outside party like a coach to do. Forgive that person for being, in this particular situation or regard — a little or a lot messed up.

Being righteous about it feels better in the moment and pitting yourself against someone will not win the battle, it blurs your thinking and perpetuates it.

Ugh, what a burden for you, right? Toxic behavior creates impacts ranging from emotionally painful to tangibly damaging.

That being said, get on top of your emotions or your actions will be less than wise. Practicing self-responsibility and firm forgiveness frees you, it doesn’t let them off the hook.

Love your enemy.

Step 2: Get strategic and step up to the plate

Next you’ll need to respond if you want to maintain or enhance your influence.

Boundaries are foundation. Set them as bet you can. Set boundaries on yourself too — namely, stop:

  • Sharing things that might be used against you.
  • Overly depending on people who are unable or unwilling to collaborate.
  • Projecting your own “rules of engagement” on people who aren’t aligned.

Then, if you can’t walk away or it would negatively impact outcomes, step up and lead. Leading might include fighting, ideally it won’t.

Either way, you’ll do yourself a favor if you get where the other party/parties might be coming from, experientially and tactically.

It starts with your emotional intelligence.

Love your enemy and be the leader you’d admire for how they handled it.

Be wise, and be strong.

Want more work tips and inspiration? Subscribe to my weekly newsletter at caseyonder.com.



Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.

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Casey Onder, PhD

Psychologist, success coach, believer in solid behavioral science and the power of tuning in.