navigating a
toxic workpace:
confront & change

Working in a negative environment can impact your personal life. It can damage your self-esteem, your health, and may even make you depressed as I’ve been through. While feeling slightly stressed out from your job might be considered normal, feeling uninspired or worse anxiety, overwhelm, depressed about your current work situation should only go so far. If you’re not sure  – check out my older video on 5 signs you’re in a toxic workplace! From narcissistic leadership, to the worst being gaslit into thinking you’re not good at your job, even when your other co-workers assure you that you’re on it.

I also alluded to the 3 key angles to address this situation: 

  • Exit
  • Survive
  • Confront & Change 

We’ve covered making a career exit and surviving, and today we tackle the toughest of them all, confront and change.

Sadly, most people don’t want to do the work necessary. They’re hoping things will magically change or get better. Or, they procrastinate and say, ‘I’ll focus on it next week.’ And I too have been guilty of this – of avoiding confrontations and letting anxiety build within myself but I’m so encouraged you’re here because you’re being courageous, you see the value of your workplace and the opportunity beyond the toxic source, and as the quote goes, you’ve come to a point that “I am no longer accepting the things I cannot change. I am changing the things I cannot accept.”

There are many opinions out there when it comes to how to deal with toxic co-workers and the environment but I love this one: the universal truth is: Like toxic waste, toxic co-workers have to be handled with care. And it’s not healthy to have prolonged exposure to either.

So what’s the best strategy for handling the toxic source? This depends largely on the type of person you’re dealing with but here are 4 of my top strategies I’d encourage you to consider:



Confrontations are scary but If you don’t attempt to do this, there is a 0% chance that your relationship will change from its dysfunctional state. You cannot assume this person will suddenly wake up and realize the error of their ways, so make an honest attempt to provide productive feedback.


Trying a line like, “Hey, I’m noticing that we both have different perceptions of how this is going. Can we talk about it?” 

OR “Hey, I think we might have different expectations of each other – can we talk about it so we can get this to the finish line?”

Often, others don’t realize the impact they are having on you. Research shows that most of us lack self-awareness, especially at work and expect that with remote teams, teams with nascent relationships that there is a ‘breaking in period’ to understand each other’s styles- so if you’re in luck, there is no malice involved. 

Act as a loyalist yourself by opening up an honest, candid dialogue.  Focus on the impact the behavior is having on you. 

Ask for feedback on your own behavior as well. This comes across less that you are “attacking” the other person, but come from a position of wanting to improve the working dynamic.


(2) If you, however, don’t have a mature enough coworker to handle the first approach, raise your own game and keep your ego in check. 

Don’t stoop to their level. Watch for and manage your fight-or-flight response. Maybe a fight is not worth it. Keep communication civil but to a minimum, and keep things on formal communication channels like email so that if it comes to the next step, you’d have a paper trail of what has transpired, and that you have made sincere attempts to address the situation. 

The more you can maintain your focus on team goals, the less likely you are to become blinded by win/lose thinking with this toxic peer. Be the role model for how you want the team to act. Set a standard with the rest of the team that supports collaboration and open dialogue, not retaliation.


(3) And if this still doesn’t work, move to THE POWER OF THREE

Asking someone like a colleague, HR, or a supervisor, to step in on a personal situation can seem nerve-wracking and a bit of a wuss-move. But, a third party is often a good way to get an objective view on the situation. Further. it can help establish some accountability for all parties involved. To loop in someone without putting up your coworker’s guard, perhaps try an opener like “I’d like to get a neutral party involved to help us work through this. Who do you think it should be?” Consider asking a manager who doesn’t supervise either of you. The goal is to get someone else involved so you can hash out how to make your work relationship better.


(4) If this problem is more widespread than you’d like – consider a TEAM HASH OUT

Proactively suggest to your boss/the team to hold a meeting to set up team norms and begin to address some of the challenging behaviors and conflicts on the team. 

This session should not be a ruse for taking the toxic team member to task. It should be a real and authentic interaction, in which team members can gain insight into one another’s perspectives, set clear standards of expected behavior, and increase peer-to-peer accountability.


Finally, take care of yourself. Don’t let this toxic behavior destroy you. Own what you can, let go of what you can’t influence, and make a change if you have to. If you have worked hard to develop better relationships with your saboteur coworker(s), and it’s going nowhere, or getting worse, consider seeking the advice of an HR professional or trusted mentor on what else you might try. But if you’ve done everything you can, you should consider leaving. Life is too short for work to suck the life out of you.