5 Toxic Things Your Colleagues Should Never Say

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May 25, 2024 at 8:29PM UTC
If you've had a toxic coworker before, you know how difficult it can be to pinpoint the problem. Sometimes, you wonder: "Is it me? Or are they the ones acting up?" If you're having doubts about whether or not your colleague is toxic, here are five phrases that a colleague should never say. And if they do, it's time to tally up the red flags — and consider speaking up. 

1. "Yeah, well, that's not my job."

If you ask a coworker for help and this is their response, that's a big red flag. While everyone has the right to protect their time, especially at work, a solid coworker is willing to extend a helping hand or at least point you in the direction to get the help you need. This comment is biting and dismissive and that's the telltale sign of a toxic, self-centered colleague. 

2. "Oh, yeah, I did all the work on that."

If your colleague is always stealing the thunder on your projects with phrases like this, there's no doubt that they're displaying toxic behavior. Nothing done on a team is done entirely alone and anyone who's willing to throw the team under the bus for a little bit of glory is likely displaying other toxic behaviors, too. 

3. "Well, I have more experience than you."

While some workplaces may have you otherwise convinced, someone having more experience or years on Earth than you doesn't give them the right to make decisions based on this fact alone. Saying something like this is like saying "I'm going to make a decision or do something without considering your thoughts or opinions just because I want to," which is both lazy and entitled. A colleague like this sounds manipulative and bad at making decisions — a real double whammy. 

4. "Did you hear what they said or did?"

Toxic coworkers love to gossip, especially when they can frame it as them dispersing prized information about the happenings of other colleagues. Spreading rumors at work or talking negatively about people who aren't in the room isn't just unprofessional, it's rude and can be quite mean. A colleague that is always gossiping about others is likely using that information to their advantage in other ways, too — whether to convince others into believing in them as a powerful, inside-source or to manipulate others into acting a certain way. 

5. "I've paid my dues."

Unless you're working in a clubhouse, dues aren't something that should exist at work. Your coworker saying this is essentially the same as them saying they have the right to coast on the back of your hard work, which isn't acceptable whether they're your friend or your boss. And if they're doing this on the presumption that they're older or more experienced than you and that's why they've paid in full, dock them another point on the "healthy coworker relationship" scale. Because hazing is also something that's not OK in the workplace — whether it's that aforementioned clubhouse or not. 

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