We’ve all dealt with them. Whether it’s a family member, friend, or colleague, toxic people aren’t always the easiest to spot at first — but the negative impact they leave in their wake is undeniable. The challenge is in spotting and preventing these individuals from having the power to make such an impact in the first place.
Below, we’ve rounded up the types of toxic people you’re likeliest to encounter at some point in your life, and how to deal with each.
When it comes to personalities at the office, toxic coworkers frequently come in six varieties: the Gossiper; the Pusher; the Negative Nancy; the Over-Competer; the Coveter; and the “Mean Girl” (though the latter type can be any gender). From the coworker who goes out of their way to exclude you to the colleague who always seems to be taking credit for your work, the presence of such a person at the office can have negative consequences for all who associate with them. And this can hold even truer if the coworker in question is an objectively high performer.
For as many stripes of toxicity that exist, so should your strategy be similarly tailored to address the brand of negativity you're up against.
Spotting a direct report who’s toxic isn’t always the easiest thing to do, especially since many toxic people are able to come off as incredibly charming during the job interview process. If you think you might be employing a toxic employee, there are a few do’s and don’ts you’ll want to follow.
Knowing how to deal when the toxic influence at work isn’t your peer but instead the person you’re reporting to can be extra tricky. In the case of your boss, do they play favorites? Take credit for your work? Express interest in only their own advancement? You’re not the only one in this position. According to research from Gallup, 50% of U.S. workers have left a job to get away from a bad boss. But quitting isn’t your only option.
It might not be your specific boss but instead company leadership as a whole that's the problem. Is nepotism the law of the land where you work? Maybe there's an absence of official company policies (including around topics like sexual harassment), or perhaps you've witness unconscious bias or microaggressions exhibited by those in the C-suite. If this is the case, depending on your personality and communication preferences, there are a few tactics you can try.
Unless you're working in a very senior capacity, chances are the CEO at your company isn't someone you rub elbows with on a daily basis. This can make it difficult to determine whether the person sitting at your organization's helm is toxic, as well as potentially make the question feel less pressing. After all, if you enjoy your coworkers and your direct supervisor, does it matter what kind of person this seemingly far-removed CEO is? The short answer is, yes, it does.
Toxic workplace cultures
It could be that the situation at your job is a more nebulous one. There's not one specific person, or group of people, you can attribute toxicity to. But at the end of your day, something in your gut tells you that your office culture is off, enough to make you dread returning to it. Maybe there's a general cutthroat attitude that permeates the air or a lack of appropriate boundaries in place between people's personal and professional lives. Since that problem doesn't stem from any one specific person, this can be a trickier brand of toxicity to rein in — but that doesn't mean it can't be done.
Do you have a friend who’s prone to insulting you, or who often acts in passive-aggressive ways? What about someone you’re close to who has a problem respecting your personal boundaries or who is regularly jealous of other important relationships in your life? Maybe you’ve been friends with this person for a long time and they didn’t start out as toxic. But if after expressing your feelings to this person, they’re still not willing to make a change — it may be time to reevaluate the role they play in your life.
The mark toxic parents leave behind can be hard to shake off. Often referred to as “breaking the cycle of dysfunction,” understanding and addressing the true impact of toxic parents is essential to ensuring we don't exhibit the same toxic behavior they did down the road.
Sibling relationships are often complicated ones. However, there's a difference between a brother or sister who's always getting on your last nerve and a sibling who's a truly toxic presence in your life. Maybe you feel like they constantly dismiss or invalidate your feelings, or perhaps they have a bad habit of cutting you down in front of other people. Whatever the case may be, you're owed a certain amount of dignity and respect by a sibling, and the fact you're related shouldn't impact that.
It's an unfortunate truth: sometimes, those who feel drawn toward teaching as a career aren't actually the ones best suited to it. A toxic teacher has the ability to make a major impact on your child's happiness, academic performance, and even on their perception of self-worth. And what if this teacher isn't a lone offender, but instead emblematic of an overall toxic culture that exists at your child's school? If it's the culture as a whole that's the problem and leadership is unwilling to change, it may ultimately be best to transfer your child to another school, if at all possible. If the toxicity comes down to one or a even a couple teachers, though, this is more manageable.
Toxic masculinity is damaging, dehumanizing and pervasive. While women are traditionally the ones who stand to be harmed the most by this ideology, it’s truly a double-edged sword, with negative side effects for the men who’ve internalized it, as well.