5 Toxic People to Avoid in the Office

Estimated reading time: 3 mins

There are some people around you that, to be blunt, you need to steer clear of. These guys are bad news, and bad company.

Here’s how to spot them, and what to do when they cross your path.

Grumpy Middle Age Woman

  1. The Moaner: these people have something to moan about everything. With a generally negative attitude towards absolutely all people, they sap the energy from you and your environment. Moaners will find a reason to cast a shadow on anything. They will drag you down and tempt you to find intrigue in the irrelevant. You will find that moaners don’t have constructive challenge, and instead use doubt and uncertainty to prevent change where they don’t want it, or create change where they do. By engaging with moaners, you will be slowly influenced to drive their agenda as if it is your own.

    How to deal with a Moaner: close your ears to their negativity. When they begin to moan, find a reason to move away. A direct retort may bring some immediate satisfaction, but it will not change the outlook of the moaner.

    Man shrugs

  2. The Shirker: a Shirker is Teflon-coated – nothing sticks. They avoid work and responsibility and will push it onto you if you are close to hand. Shirkers will leverage your relationship to avoid work. Shirkers don’t delegate – their intent is to abdicate responsibilities and put you in the firing line. Particularly charming Shirkers may give you reason to think taking on their responsibilities is a great opportunity for you and kudos will be yours.

    How to deal with a Shirker: if you accept work onto your stack from a Shirker, then make sure you’re being delegated to. In other words, you can do the graft but the overall responsibility remains with them. Don’t take on the job of managing the Shirker’s stakeholders, at least in isolation – do this with the Shirker’s involvement. Then again, if the work being offered has no relevance to your role or if you don’t have the skills or resources to do the job effectively, then refuse it.


  3. The Bully: Bullies are people who intimidate others. It’s perhaps obvious that you would steer clear of someone who is bullying you – and you should also stay clear of a Bully who you observe bullying other people, as at some point you are likely to be on the receiving end. A ‘good relationship’ is not enough to be immune from this behavior. You’ll also be tarnished with the same brush and complicit in the bullying, because your involvement with the Bully may benefit you, even indirectly.

    How to deal with a Bully: you might want to avoid becoming a target for the Bully, but a rapid pulling back from this relationship is required. You don’t need to give reasons – just disinterest yourself. Assertive commentators might say that you should tackle the Bully head on and stand up for your colleagues, which I would encourage, but these situations are not always that easy when you’re in them.


  4. The Bullsh*tter: these guys use exaggeration and mis-truths. Often, you and your colleagues can see right through the nonsense. It may even be entertaining, warranting sideways glances and smirks between pods. You probably tolerate them. The Bullsh*tter will eventually grind you down, and you will become increasingly annoyed by the crap these people churn out.

    How to deal with a Bullsh*tter: utter ignorance is one way. Bullsh*tters are so because they like an audience to hear their impressive claims. Cut the head off the snake, which removes the ears. No audience, no Bullsh*t.


  5. The Fox: darting here, slinking there, a Fox can be seen in the corner of the eye. Foxes slyly move amongst us, avoiding the open. A Fox cannot be trusted to ignore your roast chicken on the window-ledge, and will snatch it away when eyes are averted. A Fox will steal ideas or corrupt your plans.

    How to deal with a Fox: don’t share ideas or plans with a Fox until you have protected them – keep them off the open window-ledge, or close the window! To progress your work, it must be made available for your colleagues to see, challenge and contribute to – so draw it out into open discussion – where Foxes don’t dare to tread.

Do you know any of these people?

What do you do to stay clear of them? Share your story by leaving a comment below.

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