7 Red Flags of Toxic Coworkers

I’ve definitely had my run-in with toxic coworkers, especially during my few years in a toxic workplace. Thank goodness I’m out of there! Some of my past issues I’ve described in these posts: HR Is Not On Your Side. But some red flags to watch out for when interacting with your coworkers…

  1. They gossip, especially when the gossip is not normal chatter or part of casual conversation. Conversation can be considered gossip if the content is negative and/or unsubstantiated, and if the subject would be embarrassed by it. This definitely is a red flag because it shows that they don’t respect personal boundaries and it shows a willingness to engage and perpetuate conflict.
  2. They have close relationships with company managers and leaders outside of the office. This by itself isn’t a bad thing. But when combined with 1 or more of the other red flags described here, this could be the most dangerous. Because this is an indication that this coworker also has the time/access to influence the decision-makers in the company.
  3. They are unethical with company resources. Because if they will treat the company that employs them unethically, then they will also treat their coworkers similarly. It reveals their character. Some things that my toxic coworker would do is that he would lie on his expense reports to receive more reimbursement than he spent. For example, he would lie and say that he was treating customers out to a nice dinner, in order to get reimbursed for a very expensive dinner that was beyond his per diem. So sometimes he would take a girl on an expensive dinner date (to fake impress her), then lie on his expense report that he was with a few customers instead in order to get paid back by the company for it.
  4. Their job performance is sub-par. One thing I’ve noticed is that high-performers are usually busy with performing their jobs well, and less busy with anything else in the workplace. So those workers that spend the majority of their time with toxic behaviors are usually behind the ball when it comes to high quality work – just, their time and attention hasn’t been on it.
  5. They disguise their mean-spiritedness with jokes and pranks. β€œI was only joking!” is their defense for crossing lines and being hurtful or bullying. When I was in the midst of being harassed at work, my harasser left this bear in my desk drawer. I knew exactly who did it and that the intent was to disturb me. The intent was also to access the contents of my desk, which was a violation. They never faced consequences for it because they claimed it was a joke.
Unwelcome Surprises at the Office
  1. They are negative and never celebrate other’s successes. These type of individuals only feel better about themselves when they can put someone else down. And if you are the target of their put-downs, it can be relentless. Their self-confidence feeds off it.
  2. They have a clique at work that follows their lead. And they may leverage this clique against you or even tease you with being a member by including you at first, only to punish you with exclusion later. This punishment will evolve into isolation and even mobbing later.

So these are the 7 red flags I personally experienced when I was still in a toxic workplace. Did any of you experience something like this? I’m sorry if so, because I know it feels terrible. How did it differ and what was similar?

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10 Replies to “7 Red Flags of Toxic Coworkers”

  1. I’ve experienced a few of these. I’m a-keep-my-head-down-and-work kinda person and I treat everyone the same. But I’ve seen so many people pander to the senior management just to get into their good books. And they succeed, even when their work is subpar. I’ve seen too many red flags now.. unfortunately work environments are full of them.

    Have a good weekend πŸ™‚

  2. Wonderful post, Pepper! And you are so on the money with these 7 signs. The bear pranks was sick and the person who put it there obviously needed help. I’m so sorry you endured such nasty behavior!

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