Take Back Your Power!

Several recent blog posts and comments from readers have discussed the problem of the toxic or obnoxious employee or co-worker.  Today I’d like to speak to anyone who has to work with this person without the position power (not being the supervisor) to affect them.  Your work day can be made miserable by their temper or mood or comment or behavior.  You often dread going to work – though you like your job, you hate having to deal with this toxic person.  You see yourself as the victim here, with nowhere to go.  The harsh reality is that you really have only four alternatives.  The great news is that three out of the four are GOOD alternatives, all of which help you take your power back and stop being a victim, thus by definition improving your work life.

 The GOOD ALTERNATIVES for you are:

  1. Take action to affect the behavior of the toxic employee by going to management by yourself or with co-workers, or talking or writing to the person yourself or with co-workers (see Workplace Insiders blog post, “Impact that Obnoxious Co-worker!”  for more details).  Continue to take action until the situation improves.  Become a pest to that obnoxious person and to management until it’s easier for them to take action to improve the situation then to have to talk with you about it – again.  This is a great alternative that will give you power through action.
  2. Decide you don’t care about the person’s behavior, that they have no power over you.  This one is tough, but doable.  Remember Eleanor Roosevelt’s comment that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent”?  Well, no one can ruin your day or your workplace without your consent either.  So, decide that the toxic employee simply does not have the power to affect how you feel, and write them off.  One note of caution: if you decide to do this, but get a stomach ache every time you see the person, you have not succeeded in your efforts.  Deciding you don’t care means really, really letting go and making that person’s behavior about as important as the behavior of the trash can.
  3. Find other employment.  Yes, I know it’s hard, especially in this economy.  I know you love your job (well, at least the tasks, because you clearly don’t love your co-worker).  But what’s more important, the discomfort of seeking and taking another job or your health and well-being?  I’m not suggesting you quit today – that would likely be foolish.  Besides, it’s always better to go job hunting when you have a job.  But people ARE being hired every day – and you can be too.  You don’t have to stay in a toxic environment, so choose to take your power back and find another job in a better environment.


As I said earlier, there is only one really, really bad alternative, and it is unfortunately the one most often chosen: stay in your current position, don’t address the issue with the employee or management, don’t do anything else to address the situation (other than perhaps complain to co-workers so you can all suffer together) and continue to be unhappy.  This is like hitting your head against a brick wall: the wall doesn’t care, and you end up with a sore head (or ulcer, or heart attack, or depression, or….)

So, take hold of your life and your power.  Tell that toxic employee, “You have no power over me!” and do what you need to do for a healthy work environment.

Do you agree that these are the alternatives?  Have other thoughts?  Let us know!  ~DS

2 responses to “Take Back Your Power!

  1. Your blogs are always so thoughtful, such practical, realistic and encouraging advice.

    Thankfully, I am now the one in charge, so I don’t have to deal with this issue anymore, but I really enjoy looking at the issues from multiple points of view.

  2. Workplace Insiders

    Thanks for your kind words, Katie – and I hope the tips for managers and supervisors are helpful for you now that you’re the boss! Daphne

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