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Via Grit Daily : 3 Ways to Heal Colleague Relationships in a Toxic Workplace Environment

At a recent mentoring event, a young woman approached me for advice about the challenges she faced in the workplace. On a daily basis, she had to work alongside someone who was “toxic” — abrasive, negative, and generally difficult to work with. In fact, the situation was so challenging that she felt compelled to leave the company entirely.

My response? Toxic people are everywhere.

Workplace toxicity, and our experience of it, is omnipresent even at the most high-minded companies. A recent report from The Economist revealed that Amnesty International, a notable human rights charity, lost a number of employees due to their toxic culture.

If the employees of a noble organization such as this can’t escape personal conflict, why should the rest of us expect to do so?

Leaving a toxic workplace for somewhere else won’t guarantee you won’t still encounter toxic individuals. The trick isn’t to run away but to rise above.

If you’re dealing with a toxic personality at work, here are three steps you can take to improve relations with your colleague and, perhaps, heal the company culture overall:

#1 —Re-Frame Their Behavior

When someone is reacting, speaking, or behaving negatively, take a pause. How can you put yourself in their shoes before becoming defensive or offended? So often, we rush to feel personally slighted when someone’s behavior feels unpalatable, but is that the whole story?

We all operate within the myopia of our own experience. This inherently limits our ability to empathize with people at their best and when they need it most — at their worst.

According to Malcolm Gladwell’s recent book Talking to Strangers, our inability to accurately interpret the actions of others is at the root of some of our most troubling cultural issues, ranging from police violence to on-campus assault. He says that to make sense of the stranger, we need “humility and thoughtfulness and a willingness to look beyond the stranger, and take time and place and context into account.”

How does this apply in the workplace? Sometimes the best way to deal with challenging interactions is to reframe the toxic behavior.

Try this exercise next time you encounter toxic behavior at work:

Remind yourself that most people think they are good. They don’t imagine that they are a villain, especially in their own story. Next time you encounter a toxic person, ask yourself how this person would tell the story about themselves — the one in which they are the hero.

When you can frame their life’s narrative as they frame if for themselves, you unlock an understanding of this person. Empathy is a superpower that enables you to form relationships that uplift you both.

#2 — Regulate Your Response

Successful leaders and managers know how to regulate their emotions. They do this by cultivating emotional intelligence, which enables them to stay calm in times of crisis and rise above the conflict. They’re not drawn into ego-battles or escalated arguments.

You may be saying, “that all sounds great, but how do they do it?” The truth is that it takes years of conscious self-development.

However, here is a visualization exercise that I find quite powerful:
Picture yourself driving in a car on the highway. A truck swerves over the line beside you and you start feeling anxious, nervous, scared, and irritated.

Picture a sign up ahead labeled “ANXIETY OFFRAMP.”

The sign is reminding you to be calm, thoughtful, and maybe even to inject a bit of humor into the situation. You can either smile at the sign, take the reminder, and drive on, or you can literally take the offramp and catch your breath, only to face the truck at a later time.

I recently encountered a situation in which one of our senior leaders sent a disparaging email to the broader company regarding our team. Naturally, my first response was dismay, quickly followed by anger, and then shame. I cried a lot that night.

But the next day, I took the “offramp.”

I reached out to this leader and asked for coffee. I said, “you are a senior leader of this company. We could really use your help so we can make great products together.”

Immediately he offered to meet on a regular basis and today, he works alongside us. We never did discuss the email he had sent but I think he won’t be sending anymore.

#3 — Diffuse a Toxic Culture Through Allyship & Introspection

Believe it or not, most toxic people are not aware of how their behavior is affecting others and, in fact, almost all of us are guilty of it. Their tendency to interrupt, act out, or react negatively isn’t premeditated either. This is especially true when people neglect to consider the experience of minorities — ignorance is often the root of toxicity.

Next time you witness a toxic situation, use this as a cue to stand up and be an ally. How can you speak up for others with the privileges you may have and they may not?

Allyship is a great way to empower everyone to step back and call out unintentional behaviors that are creating stress. Also, do your part to patiently educate others.

In our increasingly border-less, global work environments, culture clashes can be common. You’ll likely discover that most people are willing to accept feedback on their behavior if presented compassionately.

Embrace the Challenge to Rise

You can’t run away from toxic people. You probably aren’t going to change them, either. Yours is the only behavior you can control, so the best thing you can do is stand your ground and practice empathy.

As a parting thought, consider one of my favorite quotes: What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger!

So be strong. Don’t accept toxicity — learn to manage, and rise above, and create a culture that everyone wants to be part of!

Via The Seattle Times : A mini-guide to making friends at work

Working with people you can call friends is wonderful.

For one thing, your daily labor is lots more fun. You may also be inspired to greater engagement and creativity, which could be good for your career. You may even willingly put in longer hours, which is also good for your career.

Most of all, work colleagues — the only people who truly “get” what you do all day — can keep you sane, watch your back, act as sounding boards and sometimes make a terrible job bearable.

You will therefore want to make and keep strong, positive relationships at work.

It starts with simply introducing yourself, learning people’s names and participating in a certain amount of small talk. Hate small talk? Well, it’s the lubricating oil of human relationships so you’d be wise to become proficient at it. Everyone can master this skill.

More tips: If your employer is large enough or organized enough to sponsor groups (like a basketball team or book club), join the one that interests you most. Or start one. Occasionally invite co-workers out for coffee or even lunch.

Please don’t skip the annual company picnic or holiday party. Always look for ways to do small favors or random acts of kindness. Be inclusive (i.e., avoid cliques). Seek out common ground by asking open-ended questions and really listening to the answers.

It sounds like a lot but you don’t have to do all of these things, or even most of them. Human friendships tend to form naturally as the result of prolonged togetherness. So relax, remembering to select your at-work friends wisely, just as you do the private-life ones, steering clear of the conniving, the false and the untrustworthy.

At the same time, set good boundaries. Don’t share information about yourself that could later be used against you — because work friendships are not really like other friendships. They may feel like the real thing, but most of the time they’re no more than relationships of convenience, based on proximity and mutual self-interest. When the job ends, the job friendships usually fade away.

Not always, of course. Sometimes the buddy you make at work turns into a treasured lifelong confidant. In general, though, just focus on enjoying every friendship as long as it lasts.

Via Human Resources Director : Does technology help or hinder workplace relationships?

It goes without saying that technology has revolutionised both the way we work and the way we communicate forever – but is it really a change for the better?

Leadership and people management specialist Karen Gately said digital may have made communicating across teams a little easier, but it also has the potential to undermine workplace culture.

“I think technology is one of the biggest obstacles to building healthy relationships,” Gately told HRD.

“People become keyboard warriors and we just sit at our desks and have arguments and try and resolve problems through technology.”

Gately said technology gives many employees a sense of detachment which means they’re often less rational when communicating online.

“People will often say things that they otherwise wouldn’t and they’ll say things in ways that they might not choose to say them if they were actually sitting in front of the person having the interaction,” she said.

“The other reality with our digital world is that everything moves really quickly and we can fail to stop and really appreciate certain moments or to bring people together to have a meaningful connection – whether it be through celebrating successes or learning as a team. If we try to do things by digital means too much, we miss the opportunity to foster those relationships and learn from our experiences.”

Of course, Gately doesn’t for a moment suggest abandoning digital communication – it’s integral to the success of many teams, particularly those which are geographically dispersed. But she does say HR can take measures to stop it sabotaging company culture.

“Communication is fundamental to an organisation’s ability to thrive and the quality of communication is fundamental so we need to enable organisations to be more effective in the way they communicate,” said Gately.

“A big part of that is the face-to-face interaction and it’s the relationship-building so HR needs to play a role in helping organisations to get better at the way they not only share information but the way they explore ideas, the way the make decisions and the way they build relationships.

Gately added that leaders need to think beyond just communication in terms of the staff newsletter or updates around appointments or new client wins – instead they need to think about communication as a core capability that links the potential of the business to performance.

Via The National : Workplace doctor: How to handle personal relationships in a professional environment

Managers have to be clear about job expectations and consequences if performance is negatively impacted for any reason.

I am the manager of a large team of salespeople at a major outlet in Dubai. Recently, I have become aware of a relationship between two members that seems to be impacting their work. While I do not want to ban them from having a relationship – they have until recently both been exemplary members of staff. How do I resolve this delicate issue?

JT, Dubai

Although personal relationships may be viewed differently by different people, generations, religions and cultures, consideration should be given to what is seen to be both respectful and lawful of the local culture and religion where one resides.

Internationally, it is estimated that nearly 40 per cent of people have dated a co-worker and that up to one third of these work relationships have resulted in marriage. Alarming statistics for some, and given that the line between professional and personal lives are becoming thinner, maybe not that surprising for others. Given that we spend, on average, one third of our lives at work whilst working longer hours than ever before, it may be understandable that work is increasingly becoming the primary social environment that many find themselves in.

Traditionally, relationships at work have been frowned upon for various reasons. Many take the view that the workplace is a professional environment where it is important to maintain professionalism at all times. This is particularly relevant to work relationships, as they can be a real distraction not only for the parties involved, but also for their co-workers. Other than potentially affecting productivity, work relationships can cause additional strain, embarrassment and perceptions of favouritism or discrimination.

Depending on who is involved, workplace relationships can change the dynamics of an entire organisation. At the very least, they tend to generate excessive gossip and can complicate important collaboration and trust, necessary for effective teams and cross functional relations. It can also affect decision making, where the involved parties are likely to put each other’s needs before that of the company. Furthermore, work relationships are not limited to co-workers and can impact relations with vendors, competitors or other external stakeholders.

From a different perspective, experts have more recently found that workplace friendships are good for employees and as such, for organisations. This is especially true for Generation Y, who value working with like-minded people that they get on well with. Friendships at work can increase productivity and reduce employee turnover.

According to a 2013 survey in Australia, good relationships with co-workers were more motivating for people to stay in their current job (67 per cent) compared to job satisfaction (63 per cent) and surprisingly, their salary (46 per cent). A workplace is a community, and a closeness amongst staff members can be a competitive advantage for an organisation.

Although, personal relationships are more complicated, they can be viewed in much the same way. Rather than resisting the phenomena, employers are best placed to have a clear policy that governs personal relationships at work. The focus should be on creating a positive work environment for all. Employees must not allow a personal relationship to influence their conduct at work.

Be clear about job expectations and consequences if performance is negatively impacted for any reason. It is also best to have a rule that prohibits an employee from supervising a person they are in a relationship with. Include a requirement to disclose any relationship that may give rise to a conflict of interest.

How may you handle this situation going forward? As you and others have noticed behavioural changes, it is time to address the situation with these individuals. You mention that they have both been exemplary members of staff until recently, so appeal to their professionalism at work.

Communicate your concerns that their personal actions are causing professional issues. Specify that personal lives should be conducted outside of the workplace, and that romantic gestures are not appropriate at work. Help them to establish some boundaries – for instance, not to spend too much time on their own, agreeing not to use terms of endearment, or be seen to make physical contact with each other.

Doctor’s Prescription:

Maintain an atmosphere of trust by respecting their right to a private life, whilst ensuring your right to protect the interests of the business and fellow staff members. Residing in the UAE, they also need to be aware of the laws of the country and respectful of the local culture and customs regarding all forms of relationships.


My coworker in the next cube over is a classic case of a chronic complainer at the workplace. I used to be friends but over the years I have distanced myself from him because I cannot deal with the toxicity anymore. You cannot bother to say ‘Hi!’ or ‘Good Morning,’ because you never get a happy response from him. He won’t be talking to anyone, just sighing, acting all pissed off and mumbling complaints in the air. If you do ever talk to him, prepare to hear what’s wrong with his manager, colleagues, and the workplace all at once. He never has anything positive to say.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the rest of my coworkers like family but this guy just rubs me off the wrong way. There is so much whining coming from a grown man that sometimes (umm… usually) I have a hard time feeling bad for him. Lately, I’ve just been saying, “I don’t know what to say,” when he complains to me about something.

Best Ways to Deal with Chronic Complainers at Work

Working around a chronic complainer can be really off putting. Secondly, dealing with chronic complainers is no small feat. Nothing pleases them and nothing escapes the critic’s eyes. Complainers at work manage to find fault in management’s every email, implicitly suggesting the people in charge lack intelligence and common sense.

Psychological research suggests deeper issues at work, such as an unfulfilling life at home. This makes them seek out to other people for emotional validation, and more often than not, they fail to realize they’re being overly critical of things and people around them.

So, how can you effectively deal with chronic complainers at work? We know how, follow our plan:


This tactic is used by politicians and actors, and it works! When you’re having a difficult conversation with a constant complainer at work, subtly change the subject by acknowledging their say on the matter, and then move on to another one.

Of course, this tactic isn’t going to take you anywhere with the individual. At any cost, do not allow the individual to poison the team.


When you hear the constant whiner at work share his gripe, press him for a solution. Ask questions such as: “How do you suggest we solve this problem?” or “What would you do so this doesn’t happen again?” At any cost, do not offer solutions. They’re wired to whine out of any situation and will disagree with your ideas. It’s best you make them come up with their own solutions.


Offer food for thought and call them out on their behavior. Make it clear that things aren’t going to change if they continue to indulge in chronic complaining. They need to decide whether they can be happy in their jobs because simply complaining about everything is not a solution.

In the end, it is your job to address the behavioral problems. You need to create a culture of accountability and ensure everyone meets the standards of the organization. Hire the right kind of people and fire those who infect the workplace culture by poisoning and creating doubt in the minds of other employees.