How To Survive In A Toxic Workplace

If you encounter drama on a daily basis, you may be in a hostile workplace. Here’s three ways to cleanse your office environment.

How To Survive In A Toxic Workplace
[Photo: Flickr user Scott Swigart]

They say it takes one bad apple to ruin the batch. This adage rings painfully true in the business world, as workplace culture can suffer greatly because of the toxic behavior of one employee.


Note three key steps to addressing toxic behavior. When properly followed, they handle otherwise tricky situations and allow an air of professionalism to take precedence over other potentially petty options.

1. Don’t Fight Fire With Fire

It’s frustrating to deal with toxic behavior. With that being said, there’s no excuse for addressing this behavior with equally negative behavior. It does nothing but negatively affect workplace culture. Although it provides an immediate sense of catharsis, it’s no substitution for handling it in a professional and decent manner.

Addressing it in a negative manner can have terrible repercussions–the most common is when a person is simply unaware they’re acting improperly. Politely and professionally discussing the matter at hand can work wonders, and you won’t risk burning any bridges.

2. Use HR To Your Advantage

Handling toxic behavior is tricky more often than not. Every so often, there’s only so much you can do. There comes a time when you may need outside help, and that’s when it’s crucial to remember the human resources department exists to assist with these matters.

If the issue can’t be resolved, then it’s time for professional intervention. Thanks to advanced and progressive training, HR specialists and managers are highly equipped to address toxic behavior, and suggest any further action that may need to be taken. Remember you’re not in this alone–if negative, toxic behavior is affecting you, chances are it’s affecting other people. No one is more qualified to assist in these matters than your local HR guru.

3. If Severe Action Is Needed, Take It

It’s an unfortunate truth, but certain behaviors can entirely infect a workplace with negativity, killing production and motivation. If negative behavior persists, even after properly addressing it, there comes a time when their position within the company needs to be evaluated.


At this point, it is time for someone in a managerial position to step in and assess available options. The most important thing to keep in mind is not to appeal to them over other employees. Changing the nature of the workplace to accommodate toxic behavior is the single worst thing you can do.

Your culture should be firmly established. While diversity among workers is crucial to an outstanding workplace, those whose values and behaviors simply don’t align with your workplace might not be the right fit.

About the author

Barry S. Saltzman is CEO of Saltzman Enterprise Group and Partner at Culture Measures, a business focused on turning the art of culture into a science.