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7 Toxic Coworkers You Have to Avoid

Toxic Coworkers to AvoidLet's face it: people have somehow managed to develop a remarkably consistent ability to not get along with each other. Why is that? How should I know? I'm not a shrink. But it is true. And nowhere is that more evident than at work.

You see, at home, we only have to get along with one mate and maybe some kids. Even that's insanely difficult to do, as evidenced by the ridiculously high divorce rate. Ever since we created "no fault" divorce, couples who once declared their undying love for each other are bolting for the exits. Why? Because they can't stand each other.

It's nothing personal. They just don't get along. Getting along is hard. It's a people thing. And you know what? It's way worse in the workplace.

That's because at work we get to act out our childhood issues and insecurities on dozens, sometimes hundreds of innocent, unsuspecting people. And it's not as if they asked for it. They're just trying to earn a living. The killer is that some people make it that much worse than it has to be by turning their workplace into a toxic, chaotic mess.

Here are 7 you're likely to run into in pretty much any workplace. If you're smart, you'll steer clear. And if you've got to work with them, at least be forewarned:

  1. The guy who feels threatened by you. This guy is like a wounded animal: you never know what he's going to do. That's because he's, for whatever reason, concocted a paranoid scenario that makes you his enemy. So what if it's all in his head? He'll try to take you down, nevertheless. Maintain a safe distance if you can.
  2. The coworker who takes herself too seriously. If they were just annoying, that'd be okay. But in their relentless drive to be taken seriously and get attention, they make life miserable for everyone. Expect to be roped into all kinds of mini-dramas and to be taken down plenty of dumb rat-holes by this one.
  3. The know-it-all. The biggest pain in the butt also happens to be one of the most dangerous employees: the know-it-all. Sure, these people are nauseating to those who actually do know what they're doing. But even worse, because they "always have the answer," they cut off debate, discussion, and end up pushing high-risk decisions that, all-too-often, end up being dead wrong.
  4. People who'll do just about anything -- but work. There are loads of subcategories in this one: the socialite who tries to make the workplace his own personal country club, the gossiper, the event organizer, even the one who walks around all morning asking everyone what they're doing for lunch. Anything but real work.
  5. The employee who wants your job. Maybe you're his boss and he thinks he can do your job better than you. Or he's successfully managed to screw up where he is now and needs a new host to invade, like a virus. Who knows? Whatever his motivation, he's painted a big fat bulls-eye on your forehead. Watch your back.
  6. Anyone who says, "I don't really have to work, I do it because I love what I do." Get real. Maybe he is independently wealthy and doesn't have to work. Maybe he does love what he does. But saying that over and over is just plain narcissistic. If you love what you do, you just do it and do it well. There's something seriously wrong with this person.
  7. Passive aggressive guy. Of all the toxic, dysfunctional personalities you'll find in the average workplace, the one that confounds us the most is the passive aggressive guy. He'll agree with everyone in a meeting and then go off and do the exact opposite, leaving all kinds of chaos and turmoil in his wake. I think termination is the only cure.
That's my top seven. What toxic employees or coworkers have you had the pleasure of working with?

Image CC 2.0 via Flickr user Urthstripe

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