As we’ve mentioned before, co-workers play important roles on your workplace experience. They, at the very least, can annoy you. They can make life better (or at least more romantic). And they can just be weird.
According to Linnda Durré, Ph.D., co-workers can also be toxic. She doesn’t mean they get on your nerves, but they actually cause you harm on some level. As the author of “Surviving the Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against the Co-workers, Bosses and Work Environments That Poison Your Day,” she knows a thing or two about identifying harmful associates. Luckily, she has advice that doesn’t just help you identify problems but that also teaches you how to address the issues. Today’s guest blogging duties come from Durré herself.
Here are 10 toxic co-workers and how to deal with them, according to Durré.
1. VIC THE VIOLENT ONE
Vic the Violent One is a genuine threat. Do not approach Vic directly. Document every transgression with date, time and place. Some people use their cell phone cameras, video cams and/or audio tape recorders to record his outrages. Report Vic to HR. Security may have to be called. Some people carry Mace or a taser for protect against Vic. If HR doesn’t take action, ask for a transfer to a different department, see if you can work from home and/or go to EEOC, the media, or the union or get an attorney and sue. Protect yourself. You and others can file a law suit and allege a hostile work environment.
2. ANDY THE ALCOHOLIC/DRUG ADDICT
Andy the Alcoholic/Drug Addict is dangerous, and if he is a driver for the company, he can cause fatalities. His behavior is a cry for help, even though he is in denial. Report him to HR and your boss to take action, like ordering him to a 30-90 day de-tox/rehab, hopefully covered by insurance. If HR won’t do anything, bond with co-workers, Andy’s friends and family and hire a qualified interventionist for a group confrontation about his addiction (my website has a list of interventionists around the country). Talk with Andy privately, take him to an AA, CA and/or NA 12 Step Meeting because Andy has to “hit bottom” and/or have “a moment of clarity,” to recognize his addiction is killing him if he doesn’t stop. He’ll thank you for saving his life when he gets sober.
3. STAN THE STALKER
If Stan the Stalker is a spurned lover, he may stalk you. If his ex was your co-worker, he may hound you for information. Either way, be careful. He may seek revenge and he can possibly do you physical harm, kidnap, or even murder you. He may be delusional and suffer from erotomania – the “relationship” may be in his mind. He may need medication. Go to HR and your boss and tell them immediately. Set limits, tell him his behavior is inappropriate, and if he doesn’t stop, you may need a restraining order and police protection. Move to another department, take another job, work from home, or move to another state. Carry pepper spray or get a taser if he threatens you.
4. SID THE SEXUAL HARASSER
Sid the Sexual Harasser doesn’t understand “no.” Set limits, be firm, clear and yell if you must, making sure you have witnesses, proof and evidence when you report him to HR and/or your boss. Tell him that what he is doing is illegal, unethical and immoral and it must stop now! If the company doesn’t take action, they can be sued for allowing a hostile work environment to be created. Be assertive – the law is on your side.
5. SAM THE SMILING COBRA
Sam the Smiling Cobra smiles while he sets you up and stabs you in the back. Cover yourself, document everything with e-mails, phone logs and letters, cc’ing them to your boss and the HR department. Keep a file locked with a complete copy in your bank’s safety deposit box. Ask for a transfer to another department, work from home, or go to a different company. San may be a psychopath/sociopath who wouldn’t think twice about ruining you or having someone – including you – killed if they got in his way. Read Snakes in Suits.
6. GRETA THE GOSSIP
Greta the Gossip is a vicious rumor mill. Set boundaries and limits clearly and assertively. Inform her you know she spread the falseties. Go to HR and file a formal complaint. Confront her directly with them present. Insist they discipline her, require an apology letter, cc’ing it to the department. If HR refuses, send an e-mail to your co-workers refuting any malicious rumors, stating you confronted her and she has not apologized to you or anyone via an e-mail about her vicious rumors, as you requested when you went to HR, who did not handle the matter. Set the record straight and protect yourself.
7. PAUL THE POLITICALLY INCORRECT
Paul is either a deliberate bigot/ racist/sexist /homophobe or totally clueless like Michael Scott on “The Office.” He may be violating federal and state laws as well as company policy by creating a hostile work environment, so document everything and always cc it to your boss, the HR department and co-workers. Make a tape of your office and cell phone messages from him and print out his e-mails to you. Make copies and keep all evidence in a safety deposit in your bank in case of a law suit. Bring Paul to HR and tell Paul directly that his insensitive remarks interfere in your work, offend people and need to stop. Ask HR to order Paul to a refresher course in diversity training.
8. THOMAS THE THIEF
Thomas can steal your ideas, take credit for your work and/or take items from your desk, wallet and purse. Change your computer and cell phone passwords daily, close and lock your desk and carry your purse and valuables to the bathroom. Use your camera to document when you find your things in his possession. Call him out in a meeting that he took your idea. Whether you have proof or not, confront Thomas so he knows you’re onto his game. Be firm, clear and direct with him because he’s in denial and he has an addiction. Report him to HR, even if you have no proof. Ask co-workers to be witnesses for you.
9. GORDON THE GRINCH
Gordon the Grinch is negative, pessimistic and insulting. Set limits, confront him and say, “Gordon, I appreciate that you are a dependable worker here, and I know you don’t like your job, but I do. I’d prefer you keep your negative comments to yourself and let me work in peace. Perhaps the free counseling sessions at EAP – Employee Assistance Program – might lift your black cloud. ” Unless he has a near death experience and realizes how precious life is, Gordon won’t change. Ask HR to speak to him, move away from Gordon, transfer to another department, work from home, start your own business, or work for another company. If not, wear ear plugs, play music through ear buds. Protect yourself from Gordon’s negativity.
10. PAM THE PASSIVE AGGRESSIVE
Pam is passive-aggressive—she does nasty, aggressive acts in a passive manner. Pam “forgets” to tell about the urgent call or that your overnight delivery has been sitting on her desk for hours. Confront Pam that you’re onto her game because she thinks you don’t know. Tell her to communicate honestly and openly rather than sabotage you. Allow her to be assertive, which may be scary for her, given her programming that “anger” isn’t “nice.” Pam needs assertiveness training workshops, to listen to self-help CD’s and read as many books about it as possible. If she takes your advice, she will be incredibly grateful to you for freeing her from her own emotional prison.
Linnda Durré, Ph.D. is a psychotherapist, business consultant, corporate trainer, national speaker and columnist. She has hosted and co-produced two live call-in TV shows, including “Ask The Family Therapist” on America’s Health Network, which was associated with Mayo Clinic. She is the author of “Surviving The Toxic Workplace: Protect Yourself Against Co-Workers, Bosses, and Work Environments That Poison Your Day” (2010 – McGraw-Hill). www.survivingthetoxicworkplace.com