The one thing that can turn an enjoyable job into something mentally and physically taxing is working with toxic co-workers, including a toxic boss.

We know that “toxic” refers to chemical products that are known to be poisonous, dangerous, contaminated and even lethal.

A toxic co-worker isn’t much better.  They are poisonous, dangerous, and even lethal to an organization and to the people that surround them.

They’re the ones whose manipulative actions turn the workplace into a dreadful culture. Employees spend at least eight hours a day with their co-workers during the workweek. That may be more time than they get to spend with their families. Spending so much time with the same people day in and day out can build strong relationships and increase team performance — or it can drive you crazy.

Let’s get this out up front…

Yes, it’s true. Certain cultures change you and you may become toxic over time. And, toxicity may also be temporary. We never really know what a person is dealing with in their personal life. But, I’m not talking about that. I’m not talking about people who rock the boat in order to drive positive change forward. I’m talking about the people that suck your positive energy because all they have is negative energy. I’m talking about the bullies. I’m talking about the people who are not fun to be around – the ones you have to tip-toe around at work because you never know what type of mood they will be in.

You know what I mean.

You might say, “Good Morning, Bob” but you’re lucky if you get a grunt for a response. They make work a living hell because you never know what’s going to set them off or how they will react.

These types of people are usually disengaged, unhappy, and try to encourage others to join them on their journey of misery.

But, I wonder… do toxic people even know they’re toxic?


I suspect they don’t know just how poisonous they are to the organization. Partly because they don’t care and partly because leaders fail to act upon stopping toxic behavior. They cower and hope that it will go away but it never does. It only multiplies and permeates through the organization. At work, if you spend time contributing to anything that doesn’t benefit your co-workers or your office, such as gossip, participating in office politics, and consistently complaining, you’re only making it worse for yourself and for everyone else that has to work there.

Read on below to see the common characteristics of the toxic worker.

Ten Characteristics of the Toxic Worker

  1. They complain – about everything. You give them a free lunch and they complain because they don’t like the food. You give them a ruby and they want a diamond. Nothing is ever good enough. To be clear, employees shouldvoice concerns and many complaints are reasonable. But, if it’s a never-ending stream of complaints and if everything is an issue…that’s an issue.
  2. They like to say, “It’s not my job” a lot. They also like to say, “It’s not my problem.” Teamwork matters. People who think they should only have to do what’s on their job description aren’t effective players.
  3. They’re brilliant excuse makers. Unproductive employees have an excuse for everything and they like to place blame on everyone else and never take any of their share of the blame.
  4. They have little enthusiasm and take no initiative. They probably don’t take initiative because it’s “not their job.”
  5. They’re rude to co-workers, customers, and clients. They’re not happy people and that comes out though conversation and communication.
  6. They love to spread gossip. The toxic employee is skilled at the art of the “hit and run.” That’s where they can spread malicious opinions and rumors in less than two seconds by way of “hall talk” and “water cooler chat.”
  7. They get angry over everything. The toxic employee likes to yell and they continually lose their temper with clients and co-workers.
  8. They like to hijack meetings and turn them into a “bi*ch session”.They are also pot stirrers who like to stir things up behind the scenes.
  9. They like to sabotage the efforts of others. Sometimes it’s blatant and sometimes they fail to give the correct and pertinent information that others need to do their jobs effectively.
  10. They’re resistant to change. Since the world and business are always changing, adapting to changes is a continuous cycle of action.  Inflexibility guarantees ultimate failure. But, they don’t want to go down alone. They want to take you with them.

Sound familiar to anyone? Hopefully it’s not you. (and I’m sure it’s not)…

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