It's your first day at a new job. Like anyone else, your hope is that you'll magically get along with your boss and co-workers and things will go smoothly. For the first few days or weeks, everything seems great: People are friendly and helpful, and some of them even offer a few suggestions for local lunch and coffee spots. Suddenly, something doesn't go according to plan — your idea didn't quite work out or a key point was missing from your team's presentation, and one (or more) of your new colleagues shows his or her true, ugly colors.
If this sounds familiar, you might have a "toxic" co-worker. According to research from the Association for Psychological Type International, a non-profit membership organization for professional users of personality type assessments, up to 80 percent of all difficulties in organizations stem from strained employee relationships. Van Moody, relationship expert and author of the forthcoming book "The People Factor" (Thomas Nelson, 2014), believes that poor co-worker relations can cause more than business issues.
"Difficult workplace relationships are far more than a nuisance," Moody said. "They can cause anxiety, burnout, clinical depression and even physical illness."
Moody defines a toxic colleague as one that:
-Stifles your talent and limits others' opportunities for advancement
-Twists circumstances and conversations to his/her benefit
-Chides or punishes others for mistakes rather than helping them correct it
-Reminds co-workers constantly or publicly of a disappointing experience or unmet expectation
-Takes credit or avoids recognition for others' new ideas and extra efforts
-Focuses solely on meeting their goals at the expense of others
-Fails to respect co-workers' needs for personal space and time
Setting boundaries for yourself with these co-workers can help in preventing them from wasting your time, energy and resources while at work. Moody suggested setting strict time limits for yourself in working on projects, expressing yourself to let toxic colleagues know where you stand, and avoiding nonproductive behavior like office gossip.
"There are no neutral relationships," Moody said. "Each one moves you forward or holds you back; helps you or hurts you. When you know how to handle professional relationships appropriately, it will make the difference between a fulfilling work life and one that is riddled with disappointment, failure and regret."
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