Six Strategies For Managing Toxic People

Marissa Levin
Marissa Levin
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Can we be honest with each other? As much as we love our work, we don’t always love the people we work with. What happens when you encounter someone in the course of your workday that can potentially suck the life out of you while you are trying to succeed in the workplace?

In my coaching with dozens of CEOs, this issue presents itself over and over. Potentially toxic situations manifest with customers, vendors, employees, or other industry colleagues every day, in virtually every environment.

In an ideal world, we would be evolved enough and tough enough to know that the actions/behaviors of others are in no way a reflection of us. Rather, they are a reflection of how the person feels about themselves, and how they relate to the world around them. So when someone calls you a {insert favorite insult here}, you can let it effortlessly roll off of you, and you are even able to find some compassion for the person because they are so unhappy. But let’s face it. We’re not all so evolved or tough, all the time.

So aside from really advanced self-evolution, what else can you do to protect your energy, your mindset, and your productivity when toxic energy starts to ooze into your workday?

Through my own experience, as well as through my work with my clients, I’ve identified six containment strategies for minimizing the effect that negative/abusive people have on you.

1: Embrace the concept of containment.
The general concept of containment came to me during a session with a client who is truly the best in her field. However, one of the biggest threats to her success is her vulnerability to negative people with whom who she must engage. The first change of any behavior is the awareness that you need to make a change, followed by the acknowledgement that you are empowered to make a change. When she realized that she can be the master of her circumstance, rather than the victim, her entire mindset shifted. I will take this one step further. To provide the very best service to your clients, and to be an expert in your field, you are obligated to mitigate threats that can drag you down and hold you back. Containing toxic people, energy, and behaviors benefits not only you, but also enables you to bring your best self to those you serve.

Now that you have embraced the idea of containment, here are more tactics you can implement today to maximize your mojo, and keep the negativity out of your business and your life.

2: Whenever possible, schedule difficult people. If you know you have to engage with someone difficult or demanding, take control of the situation. Schedule them according to what works for you. If you need to get them out of the way in the early morning so you can be positive the rest of the day, then schedule your interactions first thing. If your energy increases as the day goes on, and you don’t want them to drag you down, then hold off until the day’s end. Be cognizant of your energy levels, and schedule them accordingly.

3: Do not answer their calls or emails. I’m not suggesting that you dodge them completely. Again, engage on your terms. Call them back after you have been able to calmly formulate a response and are mentally ready. Email them back after you have thoughtfully crafted a response. We don’t need to answer every call and email as soon as it comes in.

4: Build in buffers for re-charging. One of my clients has to engage often with others in her industry that are downright mean. We’re working on helping her build a stronger mindset and thicker skin. She’s incorporated buffers into her schedule to take 10-15 minute breaks for breathing exercises or a walk outside, just to clear the “energy palette.” This recharges her and helps her bring her “A” game to everyone she works with.

5: Create a paper trail after every conversation. A lot of negative energy stems from lack of trust and poor communication. To minimize the fallout of misunderstandings, my clients now know to send an email that requests agreement/confirmation after every important conversation that summarizes what was just discussed. This avoids misunderstandings, and removes the opportunity to revise history. Those email trails often become essential when disputes arise with difficult people.

6: Say NO. It is a complete sentence. This applies when people are trying to drag you into their situations, as well as when they are trying to force their way into your situations. The force-field goes both ways. Especially when you are dealing with control freaks, you need to find your voice, and set a boundary.  So when you are feeling pressured to say YES, don’t do it. Tactfully and graciously say NO in a way that minimizes confrontation and conflict, but enables you to stand your ground. Own your decisions, own your energy, own your outcome. If your intuition is telling you to walk away, RUN. Life’s too short to be hanging out with miserable people.

What other containment strategies  do you use to protect your positivity? Please share them with us.

Eliminate Toxic Behavior from Your Organization!

Successful Culture offers several engaging workshops & programs for organizations looking to create cultures of trust, communication, and transparency, that neutralize harmful & counterproductive behaviors. Please email [email protected] to schedule a 15-minute skype call to learn more!

For information on some of our workshops visit our Services page.

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About Successful Culture
We work with business owners, CEOs, and leadership teams that want to achieve their greatest personal & organizational potential. Through coaching, strategic consulting, retreat facilitation, and workshops, we equip leaders & emerging leaders with the mindset, tools, strategies, and processes they need to excel.

Ready to move forward? Email us today at [email protected].

Connect with me on Instragram, Facebook, and Twitter. Engage with me during my morning Periscope sessions as well (@marissalevin).

Please check out my Inc. Magazine columns on my Author Page too.
– In my latest Inc, article, I share The Essential Guide to Avoiding Workplace Text, Email, & Social Media Disasters.
– Learn about the 9 Leadership Behaviors that Lose Employee Trust & Respect here.

~Marissa Levin
CEO, Successful Culture
“Taking Leaders from Triage to Transformation.”

photo credit Stuart Miles via

photo credit Imagery Majestic via

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