Alex Alexander

Do you have someone at work who is difficult?

Is the atmosphere becoming toxic?

Listen in on today’s episode and learn how to communicate about a toxic relationship at work.

Toxicity in the workplace

Michelle asks Lindsay if she has experienced a toxic relationship.

Lindsay said she did in her meditation group.

Everything was humming along until someone joined that brought in a toxic vibe.

Michelle shares she had a toxic roommate when she lived in New York.

It can be very difficult to encounter a toxic person, especially in the workplace.

In today’s episode, we answer a very important question from a listener.

Today’s question

How to deal with toxic colleagues?


This is such a great question.

You don’t have to just live with toxicity at work.

What is toxic?

The definition of toxic is something poisonous.

It is something or someone that is negative and harmful.

Having a toxic person at work can be challenging since we spend so much time there.

Relationships in the workplace can be affected by this.

There are more episodes of The Business English Podcast that can help you thrive at work.

You can check out episode BE 237: Is it More Important to Lead or Follow?

Dealing with a toxic colleague

Lindsay and Michelle might invite a guest who is an expert in dealing with cultivating work relationships.

However, they’ll still take a crack at sharing how you can deal with toxicity in the workplace.

Working in a toxic environment or with toxic coworkers can be extremely uncomfortable and can hinder your work.

Lindsay and Michelle share that luckily, the All Ears English team has a very good work environment.

Lindsay asks if this is normal for a remote working setup.

The entire team of All Ears English come from different places.

Despite being far apart, keeping in touch constantly helps strengthen the relationships.

But, again, there will be difficulties between co-workers.

Here are some tips from Lindsay and Michelle when you encounter toxicity in your work:

#1: Try not to take it personally

It’s best to not take things personally at work.

When a colleague says something or does something to you that is really not nice, just try and find a positive perspective in the situation.

Maybe they’re just having a bad day and what they did or said isn’t about you as a person.

It is likely due to frustration or difficulties they are going through.

#2: Keep it professional

Remain professional no matter what.

This prevents the toxic person from having power over you.

You don’t want to sink to their level.

It can be frustrating to hold your tongue.

Keep in mind that in a workplace the utmost respect and grace for colleagues should always be maintained.

#3: Be kind

Michelle recommends that you kill them with kindness.

This is an idiom that means to be extremely kind at all times.

It isn’t easy when someone is getting under your skin and you’re angry.

Nevertheless, it’s the best route to go.

If you don’t engage, the other person will likely back off when they don’t get a reaction.

You will protect your peace in this case.

It’s a good way to defuse the situation if there is friction between you and a colleague.

#4: Don’t ever put anything in writing

If you do need to communicate something that might be interpreted as negative or critical, don’t email or message it.

You don’t want to leave a paper trail, because management has control over your email and sometimes the device you are working on.

Michelle shares that she got caught in school for passing notes.

The teacher read what she wrote and she got in trouble at home.

Her mom shared that she should never put in writing something she didn’t want someone else to read or something that would get her in trouble.

#5: Know when to talk to someone about it

It’s not always wise to take things into your own hands.

If dealing with a toxic colleague, reach our to your direct manager or someone from human resources.

They can help you fix this matter.

You should speak up if the environment is no longer conducive for you to produce good work.

This can also help you stand up for other workmates that may also be experiencing toxicity in the work environment.

What to say to your toxic colleague

Here are different sample phrases and sentences you can use to talk to your toxic colleague when you are working on a similar project.

These will help you still maintain a harmonious workplace.

  • I know we can do great work together.
  • We are professionals so we can get this done.
  • I’m excited to work with you.

Focus on the work

When you have toxic colleagues, it can be more difficult to focus on the work.

Be sure to maintain respect and always respond kindly.

This will maintain professionalism.

Most of the time, when you are kind, others don’t have any choice but to be kind as well.

You can also create a safe space with a difficult colleague by giving them time to express themselves.

This will help you understand where the toxicity is coming from.

Try today’s phrases next time you work with a toxic colleague.


Always be kind no matter what kill everyone with kindness.

Have a kind heart to be understanding and not engage with negativity.

Consider today’s tips so that you know when and who to speak with about toxicity at work.

The goal should be creating good relationships at work.

You now have the phrases and confidence to face a toxic person and still create good work together.

Will you try these tips with a toxic colleague?

Share how it goes in the comments below.

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