Attempting to Adult

On The Job: Dealing With Office Toxins

Hooray! You’ve done it. You’ve landed that job. The office vibe seems great, the pay lets you do silly things like pay your rent and buy food at the same time. Life is good. Then you meet them. The office toxin: the coworker who could kill any chance of your 8-5 happiness. We’ve all met them. We’ve all had to deal with them at one point or another, or at least I have. There seems to be one (or more) in every workplace, no matter what the job.

There’s Always That One

I have met so many office toxins, I should invent a repellent. When you’ve worked since 16 years old, it’s bound to happen.

The thing is, how do we handle them? It’s not like we are all fortunate enough to just up and quit if we don’t get along with one person. But how are we supposed to deal with them? Honestly, I don’t know. I’m no Susan from HR, but I’ve also never been reported to Susan from HR for how I deal with these walking balls of negative energy, so that’s pretty cool. We all have our own ways of getting through the mood killers: how did I do it?  So many different types of workplace toxins; so many options.

Office Toxin Ronny: The Stealthy Toxin

There will always be this kind: super friendly, all the while killing your work time happiness. I have definitely had my own. Hmm…let’s call her… “Ronny”, the sneaky office toxin. Ronny always has a smile on her face. It may seem genuine, but I am pretty sure the smile is because she’s plotting on ways to ruin lives. Ronny is always “helpful” and will at first praise your work and work ethic. And then before you know it, you’ve been bit. Suddenly, your work is awful and you can’t follow directions.

it’s not so… *gags on toxic fumes*

Ronny had this delightfully quirky habit of asking me to complete an assignment for a project and then redo it herself. By the time it got to our manager or project lead, it looked like a drunken monkey had attempted to write it out. But somehow it was my fault because I can’t follow simple directions.

Did I:

A. Smash her computer.

B. Smack her on the nose yelling “BAD RONNY! BAD!”

C. Save copies on my desktop as well as our workplace server and email my draft separately to all project team members involved.

As tempting as A or B would be, I went with C. Ronny was determined to make me look incompetent, so I was ready with proof that she was simply a liar.

Ronny also loved to show me new tasks, to make her “many” (insert eye roll here) duties less stressful. But somehow I always did them wrong. I guess Ronny thought coworkers wouldn’t talk to each other, but when speaking to another colleague, we realized she gave us both completely different instructions. Ronny is fantastic!

How did I handle this?

A. Set her hair on fire.

B. Since I had already worked on the contract “the wrong way”, simply do it again as a second copy “the right way”. Take both to the manager and explain how I was shown to do it, but since it didn’t look right, I tried it again.

C. Hide her car keys so she’s actually forced to do her own work.

In this case, I went with B. Yes, it’s petty and fairly sneaky, but you know what? So is she.

So many more stories about Ronny, but I’ll stop here for now.  I am just truly baffled at her existence at that workplace. Honestly, how is someone so thoroughly inept at her job and even simple tasks, cherished there? Buzzfeed Investigates needs to get on that mystery ASAP.

stealthy office toxins are the most dangerous
Really. What do you do here?

Office Toxin Ted: If Mustard Gas Was A Human…

We’re going to call this next blob of bad energy “Ted”. Toxic Ted didn’t even try to hide his rottenness. He was just the worst. He probably still is. Just being in his presence was exhausting; like his evilness was feeding off your own energy.  It was weird. Ted also seemed to just hate women, particularly women in charges of anything (that would be me). He absolutely hated the fact I edited his reports and that he had to defer to me at all. He definitely took every chance to let it be known. Passive aggressive to the extreme. Light on passive, heavy on the aggressive.

where’s my mask?

At this job, I had to conduct semi regular meetings. They varied from office safety, to in-house procedure updates such as insurance, Human Resource policies, etc. Ted never missed a chance to interrupt. He didn’t even try to make it on topic. If we were discussing vacation, he’d bust in with “So about my W-4…” or “Have you heard anything about my insurance forms?” or the best: “I heard at  [insert random company nobody cares about here] they do this instead.”

How did I keep the meeting moving?

A. Punch him in the nose.

B. Make fun of his height and then give him a Wet Willy.

C. Firmly tell him he can wait until after I’m finished speaking to ask questions about the topic at hand or email me later.

Lawdy how fun A or B would have been, but since we were on company time and my boss was present, I stuck with C. Misogynistic punk asses just need to politely but firmly be put in their places… PUBLICLY. Like “Give ’em sass, but make it professional.”

Turning in his reports to me was a particular sore spot with Ted. He loved waiting until right before deadline to send that email to me. This left me on the hook to get them into our project owner’s server on time. Ugh. Jerk. Obviously constant hounding did NOT work with this putz.

How did I finally get those reports on time?

A. Move up the deadline to submit to me  and cc the Project Manager in that email.

B. Sit in his office and scream at him while he typed them up.

C. Make him write “I am a filthy a-hole” 100 times on the whiteboard in our conference room.

Workplace Toxins
I dreamt of this almost daily…

This was definitely a last resort, but I had to get the boss involved. As little regard as Ted had for women, he did have some respect for our boss. Or he at least pretended. Ted was a real wad.

Office Toxin Duke: Just A Plain Ol’ Dog Fart

Okay so this office toxin is a little different. He was my boss.

silent but deadly, but also loud and proud

Working for Duke was great at first, but the polish wore off that crazy real fast. I quickly learned that his hair was a great mood indicator. If he was a perfectly coiffed man of action, it was going to be a relatively easy day with him. But if he walked in looking like a troll doll that was chewed up by the family dog, I needed to hide as much as humanly possible.

How did I handle the moods?

A. Shave his head while he was passed out at his desk from the hard night before so he’d never have a bad day again.

B. Spit in his Starbucks.

C. Form a secret support group with my coworkers.

Sadly, at the time I felt my only recourse was C.  I wasn’t the only one who felt the wrath of Troll Duke on the regular. We all leaned on each other.

I’m going to stop here with Duke because there are just too many scenarios to choose from. I should really write a book on that insanity. Hardly anyone believes the stories I tell, so it’d for sure make great fiction.

But fighting to get through the first phase of that company was worth it. The insanity went ALL THE WAY TO THE TOP *conspiracy theorist voice*. The strong survived this phase and eventually we ended up with a great manager and ended our projects with a stellar reputation.

Don’t Get Fired

Guys, workplace toxin spreaders will be everywhere. It’s not worth getting fired for a moment of that sweet gratification punching them in the nose might bring. You got this. And while you act responsibly and maturely while making up the sweetest, pettiest scenarios in your head, you can also look for another job if you just can’t handle that kind of toxicity any longer.

You got this.



Related: Without A Job: So Now What? 



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