Water Under the Bridge: How to Get Over Toxic Relations at Work

The workplace with endless tasks can be pretty stressful as it is. Add toxic relations with your coworkers to the mix, and it becomes virtually impossible to soldier on.

Even the best and most welcoming working environment can become a source of constant arguments and stress. All it takes is one bad apple to turn a solid team into a dysfunctional mess.
Companies (especially the ones that lack experienced management) often overlook the importance of the connections their employees build with each other.

Thus, leaving even one toxic element unchecked can have pretty severe consequences. Frequently employees are left to manage their problems on their own. Here are some things you can do to improve your relations with ‘toxic’ coworkers.

Direct Approach

One of the most efficient ways to fix any problem you have with your colleagues is doing it head-on. If you have an issue – talk it out.

Best case scenario – you are going to come to an understanding, and things will improve. Worst case – you move to other options now knowing that you cannot reason with this person.

Yet, before going off yelling at someone, make sure you follow some basic rules. Try to:

  • Be honest;

  • Be sincere;

  • Be reasonable;

  • Be understanding.

Another thing you better do at all times – stay positive. Losing your voice in a screaming contest will help no one. You may not like the person in question. They may be the most annoying person in the world.

Your patience may be paper-thin by this point. Forget everything. Your goal is to fix the problem, not to make anyone feel bad. Carrying the conversation in good faith, you’re way more likely to succeed.

Give them every courtesy you can. Even if you think he or she doesn’t deserve it. Speak politely and calmly, leave passive-aggressive remarks out, be precise and to the point.

Keep the conversation focused. Sidetracking to personal insults and blaming will only add to the wall you’re trying to overcome. Try looking at the problem from their perspective. Meeting halfway is a good start.

Taking It Up

When all attempts to fix the problem on equal footing have failed, you can start thinking about involving a third party. Going to your boss or HRs with your concerns may seem like a drastic step.

But there’s nothing to be nervous about. If your concerns are legitimate and the actions of your coworker keep you down, there’s nothing wrong in asking for help from up the hierarchy ladder.

The only thing you have to do is deliver your message in a clean, focused manner: no drama, no backstabbing, no personal attacks, or whining. Be honest about what bothers you and why. Suggest a way to fix the problem.

This sort of responsible attitude will both preserve your reputation in the eyes of your supervisors and help them better understand and fix the issue.


The most common response to toxicity that you should never adopt is fighting fire with fire. When someone starts acting in a way you consider unacceptable, never start doing it as well. Don’t stoop to gossiping, backstabbing, snarky comments, and insults.

Use the frustration to drive you to more significant achievements. Analyze the situation, find better solutions. Stay calm and composed.

Accepting the situation as just a thing that sometimes happens when you go to work can help you go on for a while.

Moving On

Sometimes no matter what you try – nothing works. There can be many reasons for this, but the answer is always the same.

If you’ve tried everything to salvage the situation and realized that nothing could be done – consider quitting. It definitely shouldn’t be your go-to option. But it is a viable solution, nonetheless.

Your happiness and mental health are more important than any job. If you no longer feel comfortable in your workplace, looking for another one is the best thing you can do. Feeling miserable doesn’t only affect yourself.

If you’re a member of a team, your attitude affects everyone around you. Decreasing performance and burning out will catch up with you if you don’t take action.

Final Words

Workplace problems are pervasive nowadays.

Just remember that the absolute worst thing you can do when it comes to workplace conflict is to ignore it. The problem is unlikely to go away by itself. And sitting on it will harm not only you but also your team.

So remember that you have to be an active member of your workplace community. Finding a good team to work as a part of is a blessing. But to do it, you have to be a perfect cog yourself.

Take an active role in forming the professionalism and friendly atmosphere around you. The result will surprise you.

Author bio:

Jeremy Williams got his MBA at the Isenberg School of Management in 2012.
He is currently working as an editor at uk.essaypro.com  and has a lot of experience managing teams of people of different ages, backgrounds, and experiences.