3 Types of Toxic Coworkers (and How to Handle Them)
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 HarvardGazette.
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.
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. TheMuse'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."
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.
SignatureMoves: 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.
- 10 Most Valuable Skills You Need to Succeed in 2019 - PayPath ›
- Pros and cons of women's coworking spaces - PayPath ›
- Four things you should never do if you want to quit your job - PayPath ›
- How to Handle a Tough Boss or Coworker - PayPath ›
- Common workplace phrases and jargon that annoys co-workers ... ›
Looking for a job? In addition to encountering those annoying never-ending job interviews you may find yourself face-to-face with an artificial intelligence bot.
Companies worldwide increasingly use artificial intelligence tools and analytics in employment decision-making – from parsing through resumes and screening candidates to automated assessments and digital interviews. But recent studies claim that AI does more harm than good.
While AI screening tools were developed to save companies time and money, they’ve been criticized for placing women and people of color at a disadvantage. The problem is that many companies lack appreciable diversity in their data set, making it impossible for an algorithm to know how people from underrepresented groups have performed in the past. As a result, the algorithm will be biased toward the data available and compare future candidates to that archetype.
The City’s Automated Employment Decision Tools (AEDT) law is designed to offset the potential misuse of AI and protect job candidates against discrimination. It was enforced on July 5th, 2023 in New York City - with other cities and states expected to gradually follow suit. Employers must now inform applicants when and how they encounter AI. Furthermore, companies have to commission a third-party audit of the AI software used, and publish a summary of the results to prove that their systems aren’t racist or sexist. Job applicants are able to request information regarding what data is collected and analyzed by the AI. Violations of the law can result in fines of up to $1,500.
Replacing Human Hiring Decisions
However, should a job applicant want to opt-out of such impersonal judgement by a bot, the new law's scope is quite limited.
While the law specifies that instructions for requesting an alternative selection process must be included in the AI screening disclosure, companies aren't actually required to use other screening methods. Not to mention that the law only applies to AI in hiring and not any other employment decisions. It also wouldn't apply if the AI, for example, flags candidates with relevant experience, but a human then reviews all applications, making the ultimate hiring decision.
Some civil rights advocates and public interest groups argue that the law isn’t extensive enough and that it’s even unenforceable. On the other hand, businesses say that it’s impractical, costly, and burdensome, and that independent audits aren’t feasible.
Responsible use of AI in hiring
Although this law may be a good first attempt to assign more regulatory guardrails around AI, it remains to be seen if it ensures the responsible use of AI in hiring processes. At the end of the day, perhaps recruiting talent should remain a human-made decision.
The good news is that AI can help companies without harming potential job candidates in many ways – such as connecting new employees with internal organizational information and company benefits during onboarding. Or helping employees to do their jobs more effectively rather than replacing them.
There’s all this talk about solo travel. And for good reason — no wasting precious time waiting for others to get their act together, take the plans out of the group chat and actually buy the tickets. Going solo, you can be spontaneous. You can plan your trips according to your precise tastes. You can hop on any flight and fly awayyyyyy.
But what if each time you flew you’d get a free ticket? That’s what you get with the Southwest Companion Pass.
Award status, upgrades, lounge access — there are many perks in the frequent flier game. But one of the coveted holy grails is the Southwest Companion Pass.
What is the Southwest Companion Pass?
The Companion Pass is part of Southwest’s Rapid Rewards program. You get to choose one person to be your “companion,” and they fly with you for free (plus some taxes and fees) on every flight. That’s right. Two for the price of one. That’s half off each ticket if you split it! Whether you’re flying with a partner, family member, friend, or anyone else, they can tag along for free.
And it gets better: once you earn the pass, you can reap the rewards for that full calendar year … AND the next. That’s why people go mad trying to earn a companion pass during the early months of the year. The sooner you qualify, the longer you can use it.
There are also no blackout dates. There are no limits. And if you didn’t purchase the ticket (think: work travel, your companion, or a generous benefactor), there are no restrictions! As long as you’re the one on the plane, your companion can also … be on the plane.
You can also switch out your designated companion 3x a year. So, no need to stay in a relationship simply to get the most out of your companion pass! Ghost and fly away — with a whole new companion!
If this sounds too good to be true — it’s not. But there is one small catch. It’s kinda tough to earn this mega reward.
How to qualify for the Southwest Companion Pass?
You can qualify for the pass in one of two ways:
- Fly 100 qualifying one-way flights
- Earn 135,000 qualifying points in a calendar year.
Clearly, this is no small feat — especially if you’re trying to qualify ASAP.
So how do you actually earn the Southwest Companion Pass?
Don’t worry, there’s a path to earning this amazing reward without climbing on 100 flights or spending an exorbitant amount of money.
Earning 135K reward points may seem completely impossible, but it’s easier than it sounds. Simply sign up for a Southwest Credit Card and turn those spending habits into a rapid rewards account. Through the Rewards Priority Credit Card, earn points when using local transit and commuting, plus score major points and miles whenever you spend.
Stay with me here. This is not some scheme to get you into credit card debt. Many airline cards come with potential savings, giantic rewards, awarding you points, and cashback with every purchase you make that can be redeemed for travel. And often they can come with passive sign-up bonuses. If you spend a specific amount of money within a certain timeframe of opening the card, you can be in for a windfall of points.
Now that’s where the companion pass comes in:
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Plus Credit Card
- Southwest Priority Credit Card
- Southwest Rapid Rewards Premier Business Credit Card
- Southwest Performance Business Credit Card
Southwest has three personal cards and a business card. Each of these cards offers rewards between 30K-80K points. In the past, people could open two cards and get a bonus that granted enough points to almost meet the minimum. However, with new restrictions on personal cards, you can only get one bonus every 24 months. Boo!
However, this doesn’t apply to business cards. If you’re eligible, have good credit, and not likely to spiral into insane credit card debt, you can open a business card and a personal card, and accrue 100K+ points. The Rapid Rewards Priority Credit Card will get you points after you spend money in no time.
Now to earn the rest of them.
The secret to gaining these credit card points is to plan your card sign-ups around big purchases. Just before a recent move, I opened a card . . . and the rewards came rolling in — a small balm to ease the pain of how exorbitant moving can be.
Put everyday spend — especially big purchases or bulk items — on your Southwest credit card and watch your award points quickly add up. Typically, you earn 1 point per $1 spent on your Southwest card and 2 points per $1 on actual Southwest purchases.
But there are other ways to earn points, including:
- Flying Southwest: Booking travel on Southwest earns more points. The cost of this travel will be worth it with your companion pass
- Shopping from Rapid Rewards Partners: Purchases with Southwest’s “Home & Lifestyle” and “Shop and Dine” Partners also earn Companion Pass qualifying points. While you shouldn’t make gratuitous purchases, browse Southwest’s partners to see if you could earn extra points for items you'd be purchasing anyway. All this, simply from enrolling in their Dining Program and shopping with their partners.
So there you have it! And since it’s almost Spring, get to earning and soon you’ll be flying two for the price of one!