career

Maybe you love your job on paper, but in reality something is dragging you down. And that something is the person in the cubicle a few feet from your own. Most job descriptions don't account for the amount time we devote to workplace dynamics—whether that means withstanding foul lunch odors emanating from the office microwave or worrying about your boss's overuse of exclamation points in an email. But those are just minor issues compared to the burden a toxic coworker.

You know when one is in your midst—they slow down your progress, put a damper on your positive approach to a project or just make you feel like you need to watch your back 24/7.

It's not about a clash of personalities or a difficult person you can try to overlook. True toxic coworkers can poison the well of productivity and even muscle you out of your position. A study by Harvard Business School researchers recently found that toxic behavior in the workplace caused stress for their coworkers, lessended productivity and prompt "other employees to leave an organization faster and more frequently," according to the Harvard Gazette.

So what qualifies as toxic behavior and how do you put a stop to it before it spirals out of control? According to HBS researchers, certain character traits like extreme selfishness, overconfidence, too much risk-taking or an emphatic enforcement of rules, could all be predictors of the kind of coworker you want to avoid. To further break it down, we rounded up the three worst types of toxic coworkers and what to do about them.

The Rumormonger

Signature Moves:

Gossiping about coworkers, fishing for intel that crosses personal boundaries, spreading unreliable information about the company and its employees.

How To Shut It Down:

Gossiping and spreading rumors is one of the hallmarks of toxic workplace behavior, according to research published in the Harvard Business Review. While often rooted in insecurity and a need for control, these kinds of coworkers are masters of contagion, creating an environment of paranoia that can be paralyzing.

Sara Stanizai, the founder of Prospect Therapy, suggests keeping your personal life personal when confronted with such colleagues. "It might not mean that you're necessarily limiting what you share, but you're proactively thinking about how you want to present yourself to others," Stanizai summarized in her advice to Girlboss. "In this way, you'll safeguard yourself against potential rumors, and possible preconceived notions about your capabilities."

Still, when confronted with a rumormonger looking for a scoop, shutting it down can be awkward. The Muse's Lea Mcleod, a career coach, has a solution. "Gossip mongers often have little regard for fact," she writes. "So, when I hear something outrageous or questionable, I push for real answers."

She might respond to gossip by saying "Oh, wow, that sounds pretty extreme. Is that a fact? Or did you hear that from someone?." The result? "You'll quickly set the expectation that you won't engage in frivolous chatter that's not based in fact," explains Mcleod. "In turn, gossips will likely steer clear of you because asking for facts takes all the fun out of it for them."

The Downer

Signature Moves: Focusing on the negative aspects of the job, constantly shutting down ideas and creating obstacles at every turn.

How To Shut It Down:

Much like The Rumormonger, The Downer's toxicity can be contagious. You may find yourself lacking motivation or the drive for creative workarounds because all you can think is "What's the point?" This line of thinking can leave you in a job rut that wouldn't otherwise exist, threatening your productivity, communication skills and, ultimately, your employment.

"Don't give in and chime in with your negativity, but rather be friendly and keep conversations light with this person," Jennifer Lee Magas, vice president of Magas Media Consultants, LLC, tells Monster.com. "While you might initially feel obligated to lend an ear, associating yourself too closely with this person can give you a bad reputation at work."

But how do you keep the negativity from seeping into your brain subconsciously? Stanford professor and organizational psychologist Robert Sutton discovered a clever tactic. "There are mind tricks to protect your soul — ways for the situation to be less upsetting to you even though you can't change it," he explains in Stanford Business School's Insights. "My favorite is a guy at Stanford who pretends that he's a doctor who studies 'a-hole-ism.'" The idea is to create a detachment from the toxic behavior, so that you become an observer of a strange environment—a kind of field researcher—who isn't emotionally impacted by the culture you're studying.

The Backstabber

Signature Moves: Smiling to your face and criticizing you behind your back, encouraging your ideas in private and dismissing them in meetings, generally trying to sabotage you through gaslighting.

How To Shut It Down: Backstabbers are hard to initially spot. They disarm you with kindness, earn your trust and then pounce. Usually, they're just threatened, insecure and hellbent on eliminating the competition. This type of workplace jerk may seem insurmountable but they usually have one weakness: confrontation. They're inherently dishonest, so their fear of being caught in a lie or faced with someone who sees right through them can prompt them to back off ASAP.

With that in mind, workplace advice author Abby Curnow-Chavez suggests having "an honest, candid conversation with the person." You don't need to attack or go on the defense. Instead, try a measured approach. "Focus on the impact the behavior is having on you," Curnow-Chavez writes in HBR. "Ask for feedback on your own behavior as well." This will throw them off guard and force them to examine why they're so threatened by you. If nothing else, you will have made an attempt to right the situation. Keep a record of this. "When you are having ongoing problems with someone, it's important to document what's taking place," career expert Sue Morem tells CBSNews. "Keep a journal/notes of conversations and keep copies of e-mails, voice mails, or any other communication should you need to prove your case in the future."

You don't have to be dragged down by one bad egg. If someone is messing with your workplace culture, your productivity or your sanity, the best thing you can do is steer clear of the toxic spillover.

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You're exhausted, stressed, and overwhelmed. Your workload feels insurmountable, and the more you try to tackle it, the harder it becomes. You haven't spent time with friends, gone to the gym, or eaten anything that wasn't delivered in weeks. You feel out of touch with your life outside of work and that only compounds your anxiety. Your body is telling you that you need a day off, but your mind can't even conceive of it.

Welcome to job burnout—a growing workplace condition that as many as 67% of Americans have experienced, according to a recent Gallup poll. "A lot of burnout really has to do with experiencing chronic stress," Dr. David Ballard, head of the APA's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Program, tells Forbes. "In those situations, the demands being placed on you exceed the resources you have available to deal with the stressors."

If this sounds all too familiar, it's probably time to take action. Maybe quitting your job, or even taking a two-week vacation isn't realistic at the moment. But a personal day to recharge and reset? Sometimes, 24 hours can make a difference.

Sure, you may not have the flu or a broken bone, but that doesn't mean you have to feel guilty for taking a breather. "Many people...don't feel entitled to prioritize their well-being," psychologist Alison Ross tells US News and World Report. "In my view, the short-term gains from giving oneself a break – even if it's one day out of the office – can make a big difference in terms of reestablishing a better sense of well-being."

Call it a sick day if it makes your boss feel better, and tell yourself it's a mental health day if it alleviates any personal guilt. What's most important is that the next 24 hours are stress-free. Once you've set aside the day, it's time to consider the best way to reset and recharge. Barring doing work on your day off, there is no wrong way to spend your personal day. But setting your intention and paying attention to your most pressing needs is crucial. "A mental health day should be designed to give your mind, body, and spirit just what it's craving most—which is different for every person," work-life expert Kathy Caprino tells Shape. With that in mind, here are some options to help you make the most of your day off.

If you want to feel productive without logging on

Clean your fridge, reorganize your closet, Marie Kondo your desk drawers. Find that cluttered or dirty spot in your home you've been meaning to tackle, put on your favorite podcast and go to town. Take your time, enjoy the process and don't spend more than a few hours on it. The idea is to accomplish one small task on your backlogged to-do list that will make your life a little easier when you return to work. Maybe a cleaned-out closet will make you want to get dressed the next morning, or a freshened up desk will inspire new ideas.

If you want to kickstart a healthy habit

When you're in all-work, no-play mode, everything—even crucial self-care habits—get tossed aside. Pretty soon, the idea of taking a yoga class or going for a run seems like a luxury you can't afford. Your day off is a good opportunity to remind yourself how important your physical and mental health is to your overall well-being, not to mention productivity. Take an exercise class, download a meditation app like Headspace, go for a bike ride, and while you're at it, consider how to make time for one of these healthy habits on your workdays. If you've been eating takeout, you might want to treat yourself to some fresh produce and prepare some healthy meals for the next few days. For inspiration, check out some quick (and budget-friendly) recipes here.

If you're missing that connection with people you love

Is there a friend you haven't seen in ages or a family member you just need some quality time with? Burnout can make you feel like your losing yourself, and connecting with loved ones is the best way to remember what matters to you most. Whether exploring a new part of town with a friend, grabbing lunch with your sibling, or just Facetiming with your mom for an hour, catching up with your core folks can reset your priorities and ground you when you're feeling lost.

If you want to plan your next move

So the thought of going back to work in 24 hours makes you sick to your stomach and you know you need to change your job, heck, your career trajectory. Deep breath. You can't figure it all out in one day, BUT you can get yourself on the right track. The first thing to do is look at your finances, figure out how much you need to earn, how much you've saved and whether or not you have enough to live on if you really need to quit your job. Next, start thinking big picture. Ask yourself these larger career questions and write your answers in a journal, read up on some job-shifting advice, and check out this 6-step plan to help you figure out your next move. Don't expect to have all the answers right away, but making room to consider what's possible—financially and professionally—will set you on the right path and help you feel more in control when it's time to go back to work.

If you just want to feel better

If you're feeling physically sick or mentally unable to cope, use this time to set up doctors appointments—whether with specialists, primary care physicians or therapists. If you can see someone on your day off, great, but just getting some appointments on your calendar is a huge step in the right direction when it comes to prioritizing your health over your day-to-day job responsibilities.

If you're simply exhausted and need to shut down

Sleep, my friend. Sleep as long and as hard as you can. And when you wake up, binge watch all the shows, read all the books, take all the baths and wear all the cozy slippers and robes. Stock up on guilt-free relaxation and give your body what it needs. Restorative sleep and relaxation is essential for physical and mental well-being and if you get enough of it, you will be 100% sharper when it's time to get back to work.

No matter how you spend your personal day, don't forget that it's PERSONAL. If you're planning on doing work, that work should be dedicated to your life rather than your immediate superior's needs. While you might not be able to cure burnout or fix all your work problems in 24 hours, hopping off the treadmill for a day gives you a chance to regroup, recharge and gather the strength to make bigger changes down the road.

If you thought home offices are for people with space to spare, you thought wrong, my friend. Whether you're part of the tiny house nation or squeezed into a studio apartment, you deserve a spot in your home that inspires your creativity and motivates your inner-workhorse. So enough lounging in bed with your laptop. It's time to carve out a small but sensational space in your home that's dedicated to making your career dreams a reality.

The #CareerGoals Closet

If your closet is stuffed with boxes and cluttered with clothes, you're looking at a missed opportunity. Get yourself a bureau or a hanging rack for your clothing and then turn that space into a dream office. You can even use the racks and shelves to store your office supplies and files. All you need to do is take some measurements and head over to Lowes or Home Depot for customized shelving units, including one deep enough to serve as a desk.

Depending on the size of your closet, you may want to remove the doors and pretty up the back wall with a coat of paint or some peel-and-stick wallpaper (Wayfair has a variety of options.)

You can also paint the door-frame so that your office looks more picturesque. When it comes to lighting, swap out any overhead lights for a softer, more decorative pendant light.

If DIY shelving is daunting, IKEA's ALGOT system makes it easy to install your tiny desk wall unit.

ALGOT Wall upright/shelves - IKEA www.ikea.com

If your closet isn't very deep or wide, you can keep it simple by purchasing a narrow, laptop or "mini" desk. This West Elm version is only 20" deep and 36" wide.

www.westelm.com

IKEA's laptop desk is even narrower at 14 1/8 inches deep.

VITTSJÖ Laptop table - white/glass - IKEA www.ikea.com


The Nook Look

Is there an awkward indentation or an unused corner in one of your rooms? How about a space under a staircase or lofted area you've totally neglected? These are all ideal spots for a tiny office.

Desk nooks can be placed anywhere—even in the kitchen and can serve dual purposes as eating spots as well. One thing to consider is your light source. If you work better in front of a window, find the brightest spot in your place and set up shop.

The key is to keep your newly designated desk as minimal as possible. In addition to a desk surface, all you need is a small lamp and a few key sources of inspiration: A framed photo, a small plant, a decorative cup of pens. Make sure there's a uniformity to your look and keep the paperwork hidden away: a clean desk area = a clear mind.

If you're looking for some ready-made office nooks, The Container Store has a built-in version they'll install for you.

images.containerstore.com

You can also keep it understated and simple with a simple corner desk, or a floating corner desk area.

Wayfair.com

Overstock.com

The Hideaway Desk

Your home office doesn't have to be on display 24/7. In fact, there's something comforting about putting your work away when you're finished with it. These days, there are plenty of ways to do just that—by blending your desk into your cabinetry or walls.

You can even disguise your desk as a cabinet in your own bookcase.

Something to keep in mind if you're hiding your desk: finding a desk chair that can also double as a side chair. You might want to skip the wheeled office versions and instead go for a cozy side chair or an extra dining chair draped in faux sheepskin that can double as seating for guests when your office is closed for business.

Depending on how much space you have for your desk area, you can score a bookcase with a flip-top desk like this one from Walmart.

Walmart.com

Meanwhile, Wayfair's wall-mount desk converts to a wall cabinet in seconds flat.

Wayfair.com

Some desks double as armoires, which make them particularly bedroom-friendly.

Natalie Standing Accent Chest www.wayfair.com

Others, like this one from AllModern, convert from a desk console to a dining table when guests are ready to get their grub on.

AllModern.com

AllModern.com

So now you know, home offices aren't just for people with boatloads of square footage. Sometimes, the smaller the area the more creative you can get.

The self-help section of the bookstore gets a bad rap.

Nobody wants to admit they need a little guidance, but considering the $11 billion Americans spend on personal development annually, many of us do. Over the past four decades, self-help has gone from a niche genre to an integral part of our culture. From carving out your dream career to finding love and changing the way you think, self-help authors have cornered the market on promises, and sold millions of books in the process. In 2019 alone, there are a host of new titles hitting the shelves—from Jen Sincero's latest self-esteem booster, You Are a Badass Every Day, to tech guru Reshma Saujani's business empowerment journey Brave, Not Perfect and happiness proponent Gretchen Rubin's Outer Order, Inner Calm.

If you're a fan of the genre, this year promises to deliver more inspiration, wisdom and Instagram quotes than ever before. But sometimes too many choices can be overwhelming, and with self-help making up nearly 6 percent of all book sales, it's hard to decide what to buy, especially if indecisiveness is one of those annoying habits you're looking to change.

While there are literally hundreds of books designed to make you a boss in your professional and personal life, there are a few that have stood the test of time. We're talking about books that have changed the self-help genre, and altered the lives of their readers. We can't promise they'll change yours, but they might just set you up on the right track.

If You're Looking To Find Your Purpose

The Artist's Way by Julia Cameron

Since it was first published in 1992, Cameron's creativity workbook has sold over 4 million copies and spawned "Artist Way" meetup groups around the country. Everyone from The Four Hour Work Week's Tim Ferriss to Eat Pray Love's Elizabeth Gilbert have followed Cameron's guidance. The former journalist founded her "path to higher creativity" after her divorce from director Martin Scorsese and a long battle with addiction. In creating a template for resetting her life's course and finding her own creative path, she ended up helping countless others do the same.

Cameron's book is less about bombarding you with advice than about ushering out the internal voice you may have been drowning out. While reading her book, you're required to write morning pages—essentially, stream-of-conscious journaling each morning—and to take yourself out on weekly artist dates designed to inspire your creativity. The "12-week course" is filled with opportunities to answer questions about your interests, your memories and what drives you. The goal is to unblock you from whatever fears are holding you back from pursuing your creative passions.

If you're the kind of person who needs one-size-fits-all concrete answers, this isn't going to give you that—on the surface—but after a few weeks of Cameron's workbook, you might just discover you've had the answers inside you all along, you just weren't listening to yourself. It may sound hokey, but it does work for a lot people. "When I teach, it's like watching the lights come on," Cameron said in a recent interview with the New York Times. "My students don't get lectured to. I think they feel safe. Rather than try and fix themselves, they learn to accept themselves. I think my work makes people autonomous. I feel like people fall in love with themselves."

If You Want to Be a Better Leader

The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen R. Covey

One of the top-selling self help books of all time with over 25 million copies sold, 7 Habits was first published in 1989. Less than a decade later, Time Magazine named the businessman and public speaker one of the most influential figures in America. Covey's insights into self-improvement and leadership are founded on breaking those perpetual habits that get in our way—procrastination, self-criticism and impatience, to name a few. Part of his philosophy is rooted in retraining the mind to put off immediate gratification in favor of long-term goals. "Happiness can be defined, in part at least, as the fruit of the desire and ability to sacrifice what we want now for what we want eventually." Through this overriding principle, Covey provides a kind of map to leadership, providing tools for readers to take control of their financial, professional and interpersonal destinies.

If You Want to Build a Better Life Outside Your Work

Becoming Wise: An Inquiry into The Mystery and Art of Living by Krista Tippett

As the host of NPR's long-running interview series, On Being, Tippett has spent her career gleaning wisdom from philosophers, poets, scientists and spiritual leaders. In her 2016 book, she compiles what she's learned into a meditation on self-worth, hope and, most notably, love. Unlike other romance-centric self-help books, Tippett's view of love isn't prescriptive, heteronormative or tactical. Instead, she ruminates on the many incarnations of love and its ability to impact the lives around us as well as our own. "What is love?" she asks. "Answer the question through the story of your life." From here, she takes the reader on an introspective journey that challenges each of us to reconsider our stagnant notions of romantic love and embrace a wider understanding of the word, refuting the idealized notions that perpetuate self-doubt, impatience and unfulfilled desires. "Love doesn't always work as we want it to, or look like something intimate and beautiful," Tippett writes. "There are times and places in human existence when love means life on the line, but most of us need not live that way most of the time. . . . Sometimes love, in public as in private, means stepping back." Whether you're stuck in a romantic rut or questioning the path to self-love, Tippett's book is a holistic journey that will make you rethink all those "rules," and remind you that there is only one: love.

Of course, we're just scratching the surface of the self-help genre. There are seemingly endless amounts of options—but if you're looking for an entry point into changing your life over the course of a few hundred pages, these three books are the best places to start.