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3 signs you’re a toxic co-worker

Could you be the person everyone is avoiding? Use this advice to fix your behavior fast.

3 signs you’re a toxic co-worker

Don't get branded as a toxic co-worker.

Almost every office has someone who makes everyone else miserable.

People avoid scheduling meetings with them, hold a folder in front of their faces to avoid eye contact, and always seem to walk out of the break room the second they walk in.

You may be thinking “that’s definitely Bob from accounting and Jen from marketing” but what if you also fit the bill?

Toxic co-workers don’t just impact whether you have people to sit with at lunch. They also affect the company’s bottom line, which means, if it’s you, it could cost you your job.

According to a 2015 Harvard Business School study, a toxic coworker—which they defined as someone who engages in behavior that is harmful to an organization’s property and people—costs the company cold hard cash. To the tune of $12,500 in turnover costs—and that doesn’t include additional costs like upset customers, lost clients, or decreased employee morale.

So take some time to check your own behavior. Your job could depend on it. Monster spoke to career advice experts to find three common signs of toxic employees.

You’re selfish

“Toxic people tend to be selfish,” says Dr. Logan Jones, a New York City–based psychologist. “They are frequently opportunistic and only think about how circumstances benefit them.”

Do any of these scenarios sound familiar?

Beth already has a meeting on her calendar but you really need her in your meeting at the same time so you just book it.

The printer is jammed but you have to finish a project so someone else can fix it.

Matt did some of the project—like 60%—but you helped out and will totally claim that you led it.

If so, fix your behavior by working on increasing your empathy. Jones recommends taking time throughout the day to see if there is a way you can be more empathetic in the moment, or to help someone else.

If you’re talking about a project in a meeting or over email, for example, you could give someone a shoutout for doing a stellar job.

You can also tell people you appreciate them and give positive feedback to them or to other key stakeholders.

And as for fixing the broken printer, taking credit for someone’s work, or double-booking a meeting, your best bet is to pause and ask yourself how your actions will make someone feel. (If the answer isn’t positive, just find another darn meeting time.)

You’re judgmental

You’re quick to point out that there was a typo on the 14th slide of a coworker’s presentation.

You know that there has to be a better way to design the new marketing brochure—even though you work in the finance department.

No one is perfect and everyone is judgmental from time to time but if inner eye-rolling is your MO, it is a sign that your behavior is toxic.

“Toxic people tend to look down on other people when they make mistakes while holding themselves in immaculate esteem,” according to Dr. Jones. (Yep, they are judgmental about everyone but themselves.)

Fix that behavior by being less judgy and more helpful.

“Unless you want to shoulder the entire team's responsibilities, let people shine in their role and stick to your own expertise,” says Jessica Koong, founder of career advice blog Cubicle Chic.

“It also doesn't hurt to practice the ‘if you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything’ rule when you have the urge to tell someone about their mistake or flaws,” she adds.

If you have an exceptional idea about how something could be done better, gently offer to help instead of sitting back and being judgmental.

You’re a gossip

You can’t wait to fill your work BFF in about the scoop you overheard about your boss and her soon-to-be ex-husband.

You created a Slack channel dedicated to sharing your unfiltered opinions about some of your co-workers.

You’re annoyed about a mistake your co-worker made or the angry email you got from your boss. But instead of having a conversation with the person, you bring it up with anyone else who will listen. 

“Toxic coworkers are ‘pot stirrers’ and strive to make others look bad,” says Connelly Hayward, a Louisiana-based career coach.

He explains that this behavior stems from a fear that one of your co-workers will look better than you.

“Identify the source of the conflict and resolve it professionally. Do not spread gossip or rumors, do not try to get co-workers on your side, or cast your friend in a negative light with a supervisor,” says Jessica Methot, an associate professor of Human Resource Management at Rutgers University.

Try to focus on your own work and, if problems arise, talk to the person directly.

Maybe it’s the job that’s toxic

Sometimes it’s you, but sometimes it’s the job. If you dread going to work every day because you know it’s the wrong fit, there’s a solution—you can look for another job! Join Monster for free today and we’ll email you new jobs as soon as they become available, so you’ll have plenty of (hopefully non-toxic) options to explore.


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