What creates toxic energy at work? There’s a difference between a difficult worker and a toxic worker. Difficult can just be rude or annoying, but it doesn’t impact the whole team. Toxic on the other hand hurts everyone. Toxic workers give off de-energizing, frustrating, and de-constructive vibes that affect the fabric of the team.

In my personal experience, I have seen people leave their job due to toxic energy that was started by one employee and spread into the space. This toxic energy can be responsible for office gossip, which can lead to conflict and internal rivalries.

People may turn their backs on others and hoard, hide, or only share their resources with select others. You see this unfolding and you think, “What is going on?”

Now it’s not just one person but it’s in in the air. You want to get to the bottom of this before it gets to you. Read these tips below that address both directly dealing with person(s) and other ways of dealing with it. If you want to move beyond conflict and find out what makes people happy at work, read this post based on a podcast interview I had with Vanessa Van Edwards, the lead investigator of the Science of People.

This blog post is one of four posts that is apart of our popular #SeptemberSeries that is now the #WorkWellSeries

Once you signup, you will receive an email with four downloads that include:

  • Energy Hacks: How to get out of a corrosive- aka toxic- and other undesirable energy states that are harming your workplace
  • Communication Hacks: Including the do’s and don’ts of how to keep a work argument for escalating, dealing with a toxic co-worker, and fun ways to build community at work
  • Personal Hacks: Practical and quick mindfulness exercise to better cope with stressors

Don’t be shy- share this series with your team!



What is the root of all of this toxic energy? Is your coworker the culprit and you know that they’re dealing with some home conflicts? Are they frustrated and looking to challenge the status quo? Are they miserable at work, which attracted the other employees that are also miserable with the way things are? Is it a one-time offense, or this is an perpetual, cyclical event with specific perpetrators?

Look for patterns to dig deep and understand what may be underlying this toxic work environment.

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If you can, check-in during lunch or if you’re in a private area with this person/people. It may be best to start with one person alone, which may help them feel safer than being ‘attacked’ in front of others.

Checking-in means active listening, reflecting back the information they’ve told you which helps to validate their feelings, and offering to be there to help (only if you genuinely mean it). Just letting this person or group of people know that you are here for them in a non-judgmental way is a start.


If problems are occurring that contribute to the toxic energy at work and you feel like you can address it, providing feedback can cue someone into something they may have not been totally aware of.

If you’re not the person to help, you can offer they speak to the manager or seek outside resources if necessary.

Regardless, this is affecting you and the team and should be put off. Objectively explain behaviors and its effects with specific examples. “You’re so negative and annoying everyone.” Is that helpful feedback? Nope. Try something like: “Last week when you did XYZ, it affected us because we felt like it wasn’t fair.”

If you are a manager or supervisor, include what behaviors you would like to see in place of the destructive ones and development a plan together with this employee or employees; make sure to include tangible, clearly stated goals. This shows that you are giving them a chance to redirect their behaviors to positive ones for the greater good of the team.


Some people don’t change or won’t change. If this person has no real legal or ethical wrongdoings, they will most likely not be subjected to dismissal. Some toxic people become the pillars of companies and may have even gained seniority or favoritism from management (i.e. a long-time employee).

Recognize your options. Is this a facility you are generally happy with? Maybe you can get transferred to another floor, department, facility, etc. within the organization.

Play some musical chairs; re-arrange desks, re-assign teams, move things around or suggest this to your manager for smoother work days with less interactions with the toxic offenders. Or this toxicity more than just one person, is out of control, and that it will impact your future growth in the company?

Recognize the difference between one bad apple and a bad apple tree.


If it wasn’t documented, it never happened. If you are an employee and recognize your manager requires solid evidence of this person or person(s) offenses, document it. This will further validate the patterns that perhaps you’ve been seeing but no one else has. Include any supportive materials, such as complaints from patients and other employees.


Imagine that little holes in your bubble for your words to come out, but nothing can come in. You are shielded and protected from the toxic energy at work all around you. Imagine that if a negative spear comes right at you, it bounces off your bubble. Really.

Make this bubble strong. This person or people may be trying to derail you. Stay focused on your work. Set intentions for the workday every morning. If you’re being tested, remind yourself of your intentions. This will help give you clarity and purpose for each day, and a reminder that these toxic behaviors ain’t got nothing on you.


It may be tempting to pick up where they’ve dropped off and carry all the day’s dramas and negativity at home, but just say no. Leave it at the work door. Go home and do your self-care routines that energize you.

I like to get home and put my legs straight up always the wall as I lie on the floor for a few minutes. Work out, journal, engage in your interests, etc. Remember who you are and don’t lose yourself in the chaos.


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