Six Toxic Co-Workers You Need to Avoid at All Costs

By on April 17, 2013

Six Toxic Co-Workers You Need to Avoid

Having a difficult co-worker is worse than being dealt a bad family member.


You can't choose your family, but at least you can move away from them once you become old enough. As for co-workers, you have no choice but to be stuck with them all day long for five days a week until you retire (or find a better job). As if that's not bad enough, you can't even give them a piece of your mind when they deserve it. If you reach your wits' end and tell the self-righteous office supermom what you'd do to her if she shoved one more picture of her drooling baby into your face, you bet you'll hear from human resources (despite being coined the office hero by the rest of your co-workers). No matter how rude, weird, or annoying your co-workers are, you have to suck it up and put up with them hour after hour, day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. Pretty depressing, isn't it?

You might think that, since your livelihood depends on your ability to grit your teeth and play nice with your co-workers, you're powerless in your workplace.

That's actually not true! You can definitely control which co-workers you have to put up with every day. You just need to identify the right kinds of co-workers to avoid and, well, avoid them like the plague. It will make your job much easier.

There are three different kinds of co-workers.

The first, and by far the best, kind of co-workers are the nice ones. You know, the ones who are always quick to offer you a hand whenever you need one. They're friendly, helpful, and normal to your standards. With them, everything's peachy! You have absolutely no complaints when it comes to the nice co-workers. Heck, they may be the only aspect of the workplace that's keeping you sane!

The next category of co-workers consists of the weird, annoying, or obnoxious ones. They may be nice, but you don't feel comfortable around them. Some, you can't even stand. As annoying as that one co-worker is with his loud sniffling, coughing, and nose blowing every two seconds, you shouldn't mind him - or any other co-worker in this category - too much. They're harmless. They're not out to sabotage you or your career. The people you really have to look out for are…

The toxic co-workers. They may be disguised as nice co-workers or even weird, annoying, or obnoxious co-workers, but they actually belong in a whole different category. Those co-workers are out to intentionally or unintentionally hurt your career, and you need to avoid them at all costs. You might be wondering, "But how do I differentiate my toxic co-workers from the harmless ones?"

Easy. Just take a look at the following list of six of the most common types of toxic co-workers lurking around workplaces across the nation and see if some of them have made it into your workplace.

The Politician

The Politician doesn't work as much as he participates in the office politics. He'd be more likely to be found trying to schmooze the higher-ups than actually fulfilling his own responsibilities. The Politician thinks that hard work doesn't pay off and that the only way to the top is to suck up to the right people. When a promotion or project opens up - you better watch out! The Politician will stop at nothing to land it.

How the Politician can hurt your career: If your boss likes having her ego stroked, the Politician will probably score the bulk of projects and leave you in the dark. If the Politician plays his cards right, he'll steamroll you over the next promotion, and the next one, and the next one...

If your boss knows better than to fall right into the Politician's hands, the Politician might resort to dirty tricks in order to climb to the top. That includes picking apart your work, tattle-taling on you, and trying to shine a bad light on you just so you won't get that promotion he's had his eye on. It's best to just stay off the Politician's radar and pave a path to the top with your own merit and hard work.

The Negative Nelly

Every workplace's got a Negative Nelly. You know, the person who constantly grouses about every little thing - the air conditioning, the squeak in her chair, and, yes, the boss - but never does anything to rectify her problems. Whenever someone asks her how she is, she answers with, "Well, I'd be better if I wasn't stuck here."

How the Negative Nelly can hurt your career: Not only is the Negative Nelly a big black hole that sucks the motivation and positive energy out of you, she can also send your career on a downward spiral. Simply being within earshot of her constant moaning and whining can ruin your work morale. Even worse, if you decide to participate in her gripe-fests and dish out a few complaints of your own, management might get wind of it and your reputation can suffer. If you can't stay away from the Negative Nelly at all costs, just keep your conversations strictly limited to work.

The Muckraker

The Muckraker indulges in gossip, gossip, and more gossip. He's the one who knows every single detail about every colleague's professional and personal life, and has absolutely no problem sharing it with everyone else. He spends more time at the water cooler than at his own desk.

How the Muckraker can hurt your career: The Muckraker is capable of using negative information about other people to get ahead in the workplace. If he hears a piece of gossip about you, he can eventually use it against you and hurt your reputation. The best thing you can do is to keep your mouth shut and duck behind a plant whenever you see the Muckraker coming your way!

The Passive-Aggressive Saboteur

The Passive-Aggressive Saboteur smiles to your face, but goes behind your back to undermine you. He's quick to blame you for his own mistakes, but only behind your boss's closed doors. If your boss suddenly starts reprimanding you for mistakes you haven't made, there's probably a Passive-Aggressive Saboteur lurking around the workplace holding a voodoo doll of you.

How the Passive-Aggressive Saboteur can hurt your career: The Passive-Aggressive Saboteur is actively out to undermine your career, and if he succeeds, your reputation can really suffer. Because it's likely that you have to work closely with the Passive-Aggressive Saboteur, you can't really avoid him. You might as well start playing his game. That means creating a paper trail of your collaboration with him so you can prove to your boss that you're not the one making all those mistakes. Soon enough, your boss will catch onto the Passive-Aggressive Saboteur's dirty antics and reprimand him instead.

The Credit-Stealer

The Credit-Stealer hardly does any work, but is quick to claim credit for other people's work or ideas. He chronically delegates his work, constantly hogs the spotlight and stealthily leaves certain co-workers - especially his subordinates or the temporary intern - out of any collaboration over a project if he plans to steal credit for their work.

How the Credit-Stealer can hurt your career: If you become the Credit-Stealer's target, all your hard work will be for nothing. The better work you do, the better the Credit-Stealer will look to his superiors. This can put him on the fast track to a promotion and put your career at a standstill. If one of your co-workers has a reputation of stealing others' work or ideas, be sure to keep your mouth shut around him whenever you come up with a great idea. If you're working on a project with the Credit-Stealer, be sure to create a paper trail of your collaboration with him or surround yourself with witnesses during a meeting.

The Socialite

If you've ever looked at a co-worker and wondered if she even works there, you're probably dealing with the Socialite, a type of co-worker who spends her working hours chatting up everyone and taking hour-long cigarette breaks. To the Socialite, the workplace is a social hotspot. She could also be the Muckraker, Credit Stealer, or the Politician.

How the Socialite can hurt your career: If the Socialite drops by your workstation to have a chinwag with you every two hours every day, management is bound to notice. Not only might you get in trouble with your superiors for chatting too much on the job, you're actually being kept from your work. You may even end up missing your deadlines. Next time the Socialite swings by your desk with the latest piece of gossip, say, "I'd love to chat, but I have a lot of work to finish up." Keep this up enough, and the Socialite will learn to leave you alone during work hours.

Are there any other types of toxic co-workers you have to put up with in your workplace? If so, please sound off in the comments below!

Chiara Fucarino
Chiara Fucarino
Contributing Writer at
A proud resident of the pristine High Rockies, Chiara Fucarino happily spends her days writing in front of a breathtaking view of the mountains. When she's not crafting words, Chiara cooks innovative meals, embarks on scenic hikes, travels to exciting new places, hangs out with domesticated animals, and takes her motorcycle out for a spin.

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  • Tarfton Clax

    The man or woman who talks non stop about his or her children NON STOP ll the time and cannot seem to comprehend how you dont want to know in microscopic detail about their micturation habits....

    • Chiara Fucarino

      Yes, that's a good one! My last job was chock full of people who were so into their kids that they didn't realize that nobody wanted to hear about what their kid had for lunch last week.