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How to deal with toxic people at work or in business? 5 simple steps to handle them well.

Annoying colleagues, gossipers, the passive-aggressive ones and energy vampires – you know who this article is about. If you need to work with them, tolerating their crap can easily drain your energy and make you feel bad. Toxic people at work and in business can be seriously disturbing, having a negative impact on your progress, productivity and mental wellbeing. 

If you fail to handle them from the beginning, problems will likely escalate and you will find yourself dealing with not only a toxic person, but with a toxic work environment.

As a management consultant, I have worked with hundreds of people. Most of them are great people, but as you can guess it was inevitable to come across a few toxic ones. Thankfully I have gained enough people skills to identify the bad ones early on, based on typical characteristics and behavioral patterns. I also learned how to maintain and manage a relatively smooth work relationship with them. In this article I will share with you my experience, maybe you can use it for your own benefits.

Step 1: stop taking their baits, or let them trigger you

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Photo by Tima Miroshnichenko on

Toxic people will try to drag one down to their miserable level. They want to see you weak, broken, so they can feel that they have influence over you. Bringing you down will make them satisfied, and believe me they have an array of verbal and non-verbal techniques to make one feel bad. How to avoid getting upset? Simply ignore their attempts. 

You will notice that they will try harder and harder to trigger you. You just need to keep ignoring them. Focus on your work and do not show any sign of getting distracted. At one point they will give up and move on to bother someone else.

It can be challenging to stay calm when a toxic person is actively trying to piss you off, but you need to keep your game together to dodge their attempts.

Step 2: set boundaries, do not give them chances 

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

In a work or business environment, it is never a good idea to share too much sensitive information about yourself, or your private life. It is especially important if there are toxic people in your environment as they will likely use your private information against you. They are very good at pushing buttons where it hurts the most.

Stay away from gossips, keep your opinions for yourself, do not take sides and do not get involved in office stories as toxic people will use any information against you, to make you feel confused and doubtful – or to embarrass you in front of your colleagues.

Toxic people will often try to use you by asking favors or making conditions. They will try to get you involved in nasty stuff, ask you to conflict with someone else or take the blame for things you never did. Be confident to say no. This is very important to stay out of any unnecessary situations with them.

Step 3: push back without being hostile

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Photo by Anete Lusina on

As discussed in the previous section, toxic people at work will try to expose your vulnerabilities and put you into unwanted situations. They will be testing your boundaries, in a way that will make them look innocent. Be careful but confident when refusing any unnecessary involvement with them, as they might start playing the victim and make you feel bad by marginalizing them. 

You need to handle their attempts very delicately as refusing them might make you look bad, and that might even hurt your career. Be reasonable, confident and make sure you will not turn hostile against them, even if they are really trying your patience.

Step 4: do not acknowledge their negativity

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Photo by Ketut Subiyanto on

Even if you know that their intentions are bad, act like you did not recognize it and respond neutrally. This will make the toxic person realize that he can not have a grip on you. The worst thing you can do is conflict with them, calling them out, as in that case they will make you look bad by playing the victim. Do not ever call a toxic person out in a work or business environment.

Step 4: do your best to minimize interactions

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

Keep your communication in written, and formal. Avoid face to face conversations and any interactions that cannot be traced back. When keeping a trail of communication, toxic people will not take the risk of getting busted with their nasty attempts to upset you.

Use closed questions that can be answered with simple yes and no questions. This approach significantly reduces the chances of communications. So just stick to binary questions to eliminate the chance of misunderstandings, miscommunication or any unnecessary information exchange.

Step 5: cultivate positivity

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Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on

It might be the most difficult, but keeping a positive attitude towards a toxic person will give you significant advantages and benefits handling the situation the best.

  • He will understand that you are rock solid, and he can’t shake you out of balance
  • He will feel your power and will respect you for it
  • He will not be able to use anything against you
  • Cultivating a positive attitude is always good for the work environment
  • You will be respected by others who see you handling the situation with positivity


In my experience, these are the most effective ways to handle toxic people in a business and work environment. Unfortunately we cannot exclude them entirely, and marginalizing these negative people will likely backfire, so my approach is to set boundaries and keep interaction to a necessary minimum level. 

What do you think? Do you have proven techniques to keep toxic people away from yourself at work? Share this with someone who needs to deal with toxic people at work.

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