This Is the Smart Way to Handle Toxic People

Over the course of your career, you’ll probably end up working with all kinds of people- some you love, some you could live without, some you learn from. But the worst kind of people to work with are those who are toxic.

Working with a toxic person causes all kinds of problems. They arrive with drama and demands and (eventually) leave you in their cloud of negativity, feeling exhausted and mistrustful. But the worst thing about toxic people is the stress they create for everyone around them.

We know that stress can have a lasting negative impact both physically and mentally. That makes it important to know how to handle toxic people to minimize your own involvement and danger.

Handling a toxic person is a process and it takes time. There will good days and bad days, and you’ll need to call upon all your smarts and emotional intelligence. Here are some tips:

Create clear boundaries. When you are talking to a toxic person, establish a boundary, making sure you do so proactively and deliberately. If you let things happen naturally, you’re bound to find yourself constantly entangled in toxic conversations. If you set boundaries and decide when and where you will engage with a toxic person, you stay in control.

When they go low, you go high. Toxic people are notorious to for hitting below the belt, for being cruel and disruptive. Whatever they do, don’t give in to the temptation to meet them at their level.

Scan your own emotions. Learn how to scan your own emotions. If you feel yourself getting upset—and sooner or later it’s likely that you will—respond to your own emotions rather than any external force. A thoughtful response is far better than a knee-jerk reaction. When you respond, you stay in control.

Be a problem solver, not a problem contributor. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress. But when you focus on actions to better yourself and your circumstances, you create a sense of personal advantage that produces positive emotions and reduces stress. Toxic people may maintain a single-minded fixation on their own problems, but you really do have a choice.

Check your surroundings. When you find yourself around someone who’s endangering your thinking and stability, it’s time to regroup—and maybe even remove yourself physically—so you can move forward in the best way. Always be aware of your surroundings.

When you cannot change the situation, you can only change yourself. When you feel that you’re stuck in a toxic situation or that those you work with are difficult, it’s time to take back your control. The situation may be bad, but it doesn’t mean you have to lose control.Regardless of your situation, you can always be in control of yourself.

Construct a support system. It’s tempting to think you can handle toxic people on your own, but in truth it’s important to design your own support system to gain perspective and give us insight when we need it most. A successful coach or a qualified mentor may be able to see a solution you can’t, probably because they’re not as emotionally invested.

Lead From Within: The only way to handle a toxic person is to be smart about how you approach them.


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The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness

After decades of coaching powerful executives around the world, Lolly Daskal has observed that leaders rise to their positions relying on a specific set of values and traits. But in time, every executive reaches a point when their performance suffers and failure persists. Very few understand why or how to prevent it.

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Lolly Daskal is one of the most sought-after executive leadership coaches in the world. Her extensive cross-cultural expertise spans 14 countries, six languages and hundreds of companies. As founder and CEO of Lead From Within, her proprietary leadership program is engineered to be a catalyst for leaders who want to enhance performance and make a meaningful difference in their companies, their lives, and the world.

Of Lolly’s many awards and accolades, Lolly was designated a Top-50 Leadership and Management Expert by Inc. magazine. Huffington Post honored Lolly with the title of The Most Inspiring Woman in the World. Her writing has appeared in HBR,, Fast Company (Ask The Expert), Huffington Post, and Psychology Today, and others. Her newest book, The Leadership Gap: What Gets Between You and Your Greatness has become a national bestseller.

  1. James Juris

    10. Aug, 2018

    Great advice Lolly. Thankyou for taking the time to write this!

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  2. Jeff

    24. Nov, 2018

    While the tips are good and undoubtedly on point, many people (including me, a 20 year supervisor) would benefit from reading an example that describes application of each tip. For example how does an employee in shopping shopping set boundaries? Yet, this will differ for a new shift manager… how should they apply this differently?

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