Toxic people tend to provoke all sorts of emotional reactions. They can make you feel belittled, depressed, infuriated and angry to the point where you are willing to throw your career away just to get as far from them as possible. You can bear with them for some time, but feel like one day you are going to snap and give them a good, uncensored piece of your mind. Well, do not do that. Stay calm and rational. Do not respond to the emotional chaos, only the facts. In the end, emotional manipulation is something toxic people excel in; so do not try to beat them in their own game. However, it is a good idea to set some boundaries. If you find yourself in a situation where a toxic person’s words or actions are interfering with your ability to do your job, find a respectful, but assertive way of telling them that you are not willing to take part in it. You are the one who teaches other people how you want to be treated.
Even if the source of toxicity is your boss, keep in mind that your primary duty is to your job, not to the person who happens to be in charge. Keep working to the best of your abilities. Do not give in to the tendency to see them as a representation of the whole company. That could make you want to take personal “revenge” in form of deliberately working slower, coming in late or generally working against the company’s best interests. The chances are, though, that you willonly end up sabotaging yourself by giving the toxic person more ammunition against you.
Get Some Insight
If you happen to be the target of toxic behaviour, you might be asking yourself what you have done to this person that would make them want to make your life miserable. And the most probable answer is: nothing. Ironically enough, most toxic individuals are bringing other people down because they themselves have unresolved inner issues, which are making them miserable. You can try to find out what it is that bothers them, so that you can understand and more importantly predict their behaviour. Once you know why they act the way they do, you can diffuse the situation by saying something that would calm them down, instead of aggravating them.
Take the Higher Ground
If you manage to recognise the motivation behind toxic behaviour, you should be equipped to neutralise it. This can take many forms from acknowledging the good points they make, validating their opinions, to the old “killing them with kindness”. Since taking the higher ground is exactly as difficult as it sounds, it may not be for everyone. However, it is probably the noblest way of dealing with the problem, since it not only helps the victim, but also the perpetrator.
For example:Imagine a situation when your toxic boss tries to make you quit your job by saying that you should reconsider your future at the company, because – as he gathered – nobody in the office likes you. Notice how not being popular has nothing to do with your ability to adequately do your job. This is a sign that his argument is based on his own negative emotion towards you, not a rational fact. Now, you can decide (perhaps against your better judgement) to validate his remark by saying that you have noticed the situation too, proceed to acknowledge that you might not be entirely a people’s person, and ask your boss for some advice on how you canimprove your dealing with your colleagues in order to mend the relationships. While this reaction may not be “fair” in your eyes (as you did nothing wrong and are sure that your boss is lying), it is a reaction that your boss would never expect. Chances are, he will be thrown off balance and surprised by how absolutely non-defensive you are. And you were even looking for mentorship, after what he said to you! Whatever the reason for his dislike towards you, your composure and willingness to bend over backwards to create amicable working environment just might be the eye-opener he needs to start re-evaluating the way he is dealing with his employees.
Even if the “rise above” mind-set is nothing for you, you can use your knowledge of what triggers the toxic person to understand and predict their behaviour, so that you will be able to think rationally about when it is necessary for you to put up with them and when you can simply leave the room.
Use Your Support System
You are not expected to solve the problem by yourself. If you feel like the issue is bigger than you, find someone who will help you gain perspective and develop a sustainable coping mechanism. Outsiders like friends, family or trained professionals might come up with a solution you would never think of, because they have no emotional stakes in the situation.
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