top of page
Office Space.webp

How To Deal With That Toxic Person At Work

One of the most common questions asked when speaking about
creating a psychologically safe work culture is:

How Do You Deal With That Toxic Person At Work?

So, I'd create this page just to answer this question.
If you have any additional tips that you recommend adding,
feel free to email them to

#1. Determine Is It Worth It?

Studies have shown that dealing with a toxic co-worker or boss can affect your mental health more than your friends, family, or even your therapist. So, you must determine early on if it is a fight worth battling.

A. When Is It Not Worth It?

  • If you want to leave soon, save your energy for a place you care about contributing to.

  • The organization supports this toxic behavior either by just ignoring it or adamantly praising this individual.

  • You don't have to work with this person directly or you can avoid their energy.

How Much Is It Costing You To Deal With This Person?

A great calculation taught in the book Your Money Or Your Life is how much it costs to deal with your current job and, in this case, this toxic person. Taking into consideration your salary, what is your actual salary when you include all the additional money you spend to deal with this person:

  • Cost for Therapy

  • Cost for Happy Hour Debrief Drinks

  • Cost of time complaining to friends and family about this person

  • Cost to your productivity and focus at work

B. When Is It Worth It?

  • You want to stay at this organization.

  • You work directly with this person, or they are constantly with your work circles that you must deal with them on a regular basis

  • You believe there is hope to change the organization for the better, and you want to see this through 

#2. Determine The Goal

A. Is The Goal To Change Their Behavior?

  • Start by identifying your boundaries and communicating them firmly to this toxic staffer.

    • Are you being asked to do work that isn't your responsibility or to achieve impossible deadlines?

      • Request what are reasonable expectations and let them know that you will not be doing work outside of this scope. 

    • Many toxic people were petulant children who were rarely told no as a kid, so they may be astonished by you saying no. They may even whine, but a decent amount of the time, they will fold.

      • Quite a few of these toxic staff members have very fragile egos, so even if they come across as strong and try to bully, any resistance of being firm with your boundaries can really send a message to them.​

      • If a group of employees band together to clear set boundaries, that toxic staff might realize that this isn't a playground they can bully people anymore and this challenges them ask a very hard question: Do I need to change my behavior or do I need to leave so I can bully somewhere else with less boundaries?

  • If they ignore your boundaries, address these issues with your supervisor

    • IMPORTANT: Do not complain to your supervisor

    • Ask your supervisor for clarification on the expectations of your job and how the toxic staffer has different expectations. Do you need clarity on what the priority is?​

      • If the toxic staffer is asking you to complete a project last minute because of poor planning on their part, do you need to make it a priority?

    • Ask your supervisor what boundaries you can layout and ask the supervisor to speak directly to that toxic staff member about these expectations.

    • If your supervisor has a strong rapport with the toxic staffer and will back them before you, go back to point #1 and determine whether this is the right place for you anymore.

IMPORTANT: Don't Let The Toxic Staffer Gaslight You

  • Toxic workers typically bother the employees who are the kindest, most generous workers

    • The workers that have a hard time saying no or consider themselves people pleasers

  • Be careful of what these toxic staff members might say to you to get you to help them do their work for them. Phrases like:

    • Just do it this one time​

    • I'll never ask this of you again

    • It's not that big of a deal, or this isn't even hard for you

    • I'm going to get in trouble, or WE are going to get in trouble if this isn't done

    • This is part of your job description

    • Your supervisor told me to ask you to do this

    • If you say No, you aren't being a team player

    • Your performance evaluation is coming up, and they'll ask your colleagues for their take on your job you'll want me to give you a good review, right?

B. Is The Goal To Get Them Fired Or Removed From The Team?

  • Document, Document, Document

    • Log all incidents that have occurred, not just with you but with any other colleagues.​

      • Log the date and the incident in detail, and be as objective in the description as possible, only stating the facts and the impact.​

    • Some refer to this as the A-Hole journal, as you'll need proof that this is a recurring pattern that is affecting productivity, profitability, and overall morale of the team.

  • Calculate The Cost of This Toxic Person On The Team

    • How many people have quit because of this person?​

    • Has this person caused HR to step in numerous times to address specific disputes, including potential lawsuits?

    • Are team members sharing less or becoming more disengaged within the team because of this person?

  • Organize

    • Gather other colleagues who are willing to share their opinions with leadership about this toxic person and the impact it is having on the team.

  • Build Your Case

    • Gather the incident reports, journals, and testimonials from all staff and deliver them to your supervisor and HR with clear directives on what you'd like to see.

      • Expect them to suggest creating a Performance Improvement Plan (PIP) first.

      • If they do this, clearly state that specific metrics must be met by a particular time and communicate this to all staff so they can keep this person accountable.

      • Continue to document during this PIP period, and be patient, as this will take the longest time for the entire process to play out.

        • It could be 6 months, it could be a year. It could be a longer. It all depends on how severe the issue is and how much documentation has been provided for them to justify making this move without risking a employee lawsuit.​

  • Expect this process to take a significant period of time as HR will have to do its own investigation, and your supervisor may drag their feet if they are conflict-averse.

    • If you are dealing with a union-based organization, you will also have to go through the union to address the situation, which may create more hurdles to go through.

      • I, myself, am Pro-Union as many times workers' rights are not protected, and companies have take advantage of this in the past.

      • Also some toxic staff can hide under these rights to stay at organizations long past when they should have been fired.

C. What Do You Do If Your Boss Is The Toxic Staffer?

  • This is when you need to determine where does the company stand when it comes to this type of behavior.

  • Work Culture is Defined By The Worst Behavior Tolerated - John Amaechi

    • What type of culture is your organization willing to tolerate?

  • Approach Your Boss' Supervisor and provide the documentation from Point #2

    • Ask this leader based on the organization's values and mission, does this person exemplify these qualities?

    • If not, what is the goal of keeping them in a position of power (E.g. Seniority, nepotism, favoritism, etc.)? 

#3. Dealing With The Aftermath

After having to deal with a toxic staff member for many years, potentially decades, there needs to be some healing to address the trauma created in that workplace.

A. Vent & Validate with the Influencers/Organizers 

  • Identify the leading 5 - 7 people that had significant issues with that staff member.

  • Allow them to vent and validate where you can.

  • Expect that some staff will quit, some will commit more, and the people in the middle will decide or be challenged to decide which way they want to go.


B. Vent & Validate Meetings with Larger Groups or Office Hours

  • Because some teams never got to vent to you, and maybe others, some will still want that chance.

  • You could even allocate certain times for the next month when people can come directly to your office (open-door policy) to share their concerns.

  • Be sure to emphasize that they will not be reprimanded or punished for voicing their opinions.


C. Vow What You Are Willing To Change Or Work On

  • In Ted Lasso, at the beginning of his coaching tenure, Ted did the whole vent & validation strategy with his players, and they complained about everything.  One thing they identified was that the shower water pressure was rubbish.  So, he fixed that one thing, and they began to listen.

  • What's your water pressure issue that can be fixed?​

    • What's an issue that is easy enough to fix but would make a world of difference to so many?

Make sure to communicate how you will ensure this issue of toxic leaders won't happen again.

D. Gratitude & Languages of Appreciation


Staff want to feel seen, appreciated, & heard.  So how do we go about doing this?


Feeling Seen


Recognize what incredible work they have been doing despite dealing with this toxic staff members.  These need to be celebrated.  

Also, ask your staff the following questions to help them explore their why:

  • What is the work that you are most proud of that you have done in the past few years?

  • How many lives have you impacted with your work during these past few years? (Understanding the scale of their impact)

  • What is your most impactful, memorable moment in the last year?

This will help remind them what they enjoy about this job and why they have chosen to stay.  

This can be done through a facilitated exercise, or you can have these conversations with groups of people or one on one, perhaps even over a meal.


I recommend you also do this for yourself to remind you of your why. 


  • Why are you still there?

  • What motivates you to keep coming back? 

Your why will drive other people to explore theirs, which results in creating a more psychologically safe workplace that people want to be a part of and want to be around the office to experience this.


Feeling Appreciated


After recognizing what work they have done, then express your appreciation through their language of appreciation.  


Figure out your staff's language of appreciation and give to them in that way.  Also, identify your language of appreciation and communicate that to your staff reporting to you and your supervisor.  This will help you feel more seen and recognized.

E. Identify What Are The Most Important Conversations That Need To Be Had


We avoid many conversations that would address many of the issues we face.  Studies found that the teams with more difficult conversations are more productive, more trusting of one another, more willing to hold each other accountable respectfully, and less prone to turnover.  If your staff is terrible at communicating, the only answer is to start practicing communicating, even if it is awkward initially.  


If you can cultivate a culture within your team where they aren't scared to have hard conversations, you will build a robust, psychologically safe space that can impact other departments.


In your case, the critical conversation that needs to be had, both by you to the leadership and your staff, is that you don't want to be the one running these events any longer.  You did it for quite some time, and they need to stop looking for you to do it.  So, it is time to find a couple of other people, including HR, to help assist with this because it shouldn't be your responsibility to do this.  Have that hard conversation and find someone to whom these responsibilities can be delegated.  


Then, you can appear at the first few gatherings to show support and then let them take the reins from there.  


F. Finally...Time To Play...On Their Terms


So, I'm not fond of forced fun.  Play is only enjoyable and effective if it is voluntary and not contrived. 

So, I recommend you help your staff figure out their Zone of Genius.


It is the work where they forget about time.  It is their flow work.  It is the work they would do even if they weren't getting paid to do it.  If you can help them do 10% more of their Zone of Genius work, studies have shown that they are 500% more productive.  Because they now feel seen, heard, and appreciated and get a chance to do cool work that can help your organization thrive.


If all these steps are taken, some of which can be done in parallel, people's perspective on coming to the office will change because they feel more respected and seen as whole human beings.  


Work sucks because the leaders and staff have chosen for it to suck.  It is a great deal of work to turn a place that isn't enjoyable to work at into a place people respect. 


You need to check your ego. 

You need to admit your mistakes.

You need to choose to be the better person. 


If you can do all of this, then you can begin to make inroads to ensure your staff begins to enjoy work.

If you need additional help, I'm also happy to facilitate some of these conversations, as that is the work I do regularly for companies. 

Too many leaders have resolved that work sucks and there is nothing we can do to change it.

My Response:

“To say you have no choice is a failure of imagination.” – Jean Luc Picard

If you have additional tips, feel free to email

Dismantling Toxicity At Work Downloadable Sheet
(In the upper right-hand corner click the down arrow to download)

Dudes, Do Better:
Dismantling Toxic Masculinity At Work With Play
Virtual Presentation

Check Out Our Podcast: What Would Ted Lasso Do Podcast?

We analyze the Ted Lasso Show through the lens of
leadership development and positive psychology.


WWTLD Podcast - What Would Ted Lasso Do.jpg

We Wish You All The Best In Tackling This Difficult Issue Head-On.

Just Know There's A Community Here To Support You!


If you have specific questions about toxic leadership challenges in your workplace, feel free to share them here.  

Thanks for submitting!

Would A Workshop Addressing These Issues Benefit
Your Team & Organization

Right Fit
bottom of page