Toxic Schmoxic

By Robert Goldman

August 1, 2019 6 min read

Call me cynical, but I have questions about the career advice I get from job-hunting websites.

The job sites do a really good job when it comes to alerting you about all the problems in your job, but, in the end, they invariably suggest that the answer is to get a new job. And guess the best way to find a new, absolutely perfect dream job.

Just click the button on the bottom of the page.

(Personally, I get all my career advice from the Pizza Hut website. Their recommendation is to order a large pepperoni pizza with extra cheese and anchovies. Surprisingly, this does not improve your job — or your digestive system — but when you quit a pizza and want another one, you don't have to submit a resume.)

Which brings us to "How to handle five types of toxic co-workers," a Daniel Bortz post I recently found on the Monster website.

Bortz, a "Monster contributor," does offer some decent advice before concluding that the best solution might be finding a new job on — guess where — Still, the real problem of the piece is the definition of a "toxic co-worker."

"Whether it's chronic backstabbing, extreme defensiveness, narcissism, cruelty, bias, discrimination or other forms of mistreatment or misbehavior that they demonstrate," Bortz writes, quoting career coach Kathy Caprino, toxic co-workers "are intolerable to work with or be around for an extended period."

Perhaps, but there is behavior that is far worse. Be honest now. Do you want to work with someone who really cares about their job, always finishes assignments right on time and never makes a mistake?

Of course not. People like this are toxic because they make you look bad by comparison. You are bad by comparison, but you don't need some toxic jerk to make it obvious.

I rest my case.

In the case of the garden-variety toxics that Bortz describes, the cure most frequently prescribed is sitting down with the offending co-worker and enlightening them in a collegial, non-threatening conversation, requesting politely that they cease and desist.

This, of course, is never going to happen.

You don't talk with the co-workers you like. You're certainly not going to become a chatty Cathy or a logorrhea Larry when it comes to people you despise.

So, what do you do with a toxic co-worker who is a "Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde"?

According to the article, this co-worker "has an alter ego that makes the person behave nastily toward their peers — putting other people down and firing off insults left and right." And that's why you should not "engage at team happy hours, lunches, or other office social events."

Not in my world. This co-worker, in Mr. Hyde mode, sounds like the most interesting person in the entire company. Figure out how you can set them off. Dr. Jekyll invented a serum to trigger the transition. You have one, too. It's called tequila.

"The finger pointer" is also considered toxic. Don't agree. Sure, this person is going to tell management you cause all the problems at work, but considering that management currently believes you don't do any work at all, it could be a positive.

"The gossip" definitely wears the toxic tag and, again, I don't see why. If it weren't for gossips, how would you ever find out what is happening in the office? Sure, the gossip is usually bogus, but it's always interesting — much more interesting, actually, than the truth.

Plus, gossips are creative. They do what management is always saying it wants: thinking outside the box. Who cares that the box doesn't exist? A nonexistent box is better than the real box you're currently in.

Another member of the toxic troop is the "credit thief." While it's difficult to believe that anything you do could result in any credit worth stealing, Bortz does have a way to fight back. "Take ownership of your ideas by copying your boss on important emails, like project updates."

This is a reasonable strategy, but it doesn't go far enough. Copy your boss on everything — grocery store receipts, laundry slips, dunning emails from credit card companies, junk mail postcards selling used dentures. When the boss sees how pathetic your life is, they won't listen to anyone calling you a credit thief. They'll be too busy pitying you.

Of course, if you can't identify any of the toxic co-workers in your company, you may have a bigger problem.

Chances are the toxic co-worker is you.

Bob Goldman was an advertising executive at a Fortune 500 company, but he finally wised up and opened Bob Goldman Financial Planning in Sausalito, California. He now works out of Bellingham, Washington. He offers a virtual shoulder to cry on at [email protected] To find out more about Bob Goldman, and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at

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