Identifying and Handling Toxic Coworkers With Sonya Dunbar


In many dental offices, team members work closely together and develop a work-family relationship. While this can be great when everyone gets along, it’s not always the case. This article is about learning how to identify and work with toxic members on your team. 

Having healthy work relationships is critical; they should be built on trust, respect, and good faith. When there’s a toxic team member, it can erode away the core values that the team has worked hard to develop. 

How to identify toxic coworkers: 

Identifying toxic co-workers is crucial for maintaining a healthy work environment. Here are some clues to help you identify them:

  • Negativity: Toxic coworkers tend to be consistently negative, often complaining about workload, co-workers, management, or company policies.
  • Gossiping: Toxic coworkers often engage in gossip and talk behind others’ backs. They may spread rumors or negative information about their team members, creating a toxic environment. 
  • Derogatory and Bullying Behavior: Toxic people may exhibit derogatory or bullying behavior towards others. This can include belittling behaviors, insults, or intimidation tactics to undermine others’ confidence and authority.
  • Lack of Accountability: Toxic individuals often refuse to take responsibility for their actions and blame others for their mistakes. They may also avoid constructive criticism and react defensively when confronted about their behavior. 
  • Manipulation: Toxic coworkers may be manipulative, using tactics such as gaslighting or manipulating others to gain control. They may also be dishonest in their interactions. 
  • Lack of Empathy: Toxic coworkers may display a lack of empathy towards others, showing little concern for their actions or how they affect those around them. 

Handling toxic coworkers:

Handling toxic co-workers can be challenging, but there are steps you can take to protect your well-being and maintain a positive work environment:

  • Lead by Example: Ensure that your own behavior is positive and non-toxic. This sets a standard for others to follow and can influence the overall workplace culture.
  • Open Communication: Address your concerns with the toxic co-worker in a calm and non-confrontational manner. Clearly explain the behavior that is problematic and how it affects you. Keep a record of your interactions, including dates and times, to document the issue if needed.
  • Set Boundaries: Clearly define what behavior is unacceptable and communicate this to the toxic co-worker. Be firm about the consequences if the behavior continues. Setting boundaries is important for maintaining your own well-being.
  • Avoid Gossip: Refrain from participating in office gossip, especially about the toxic co-worker. Gossip can escalate conflicts and create a negative work environment.
  • Seek Support: Talk to a trusted colleague or supervisor about the situation. They can offer advice or intervene on your behalf.
  • Consider Your Options: If the situation does not improve despite your efforts, consider looking for another job. Your well-being and mental health are important, and no job is worth sacrificing.
  • Self-Care: Take care of yourself outside of work. Engage in activities that help you relax and recharge, such as exercise, hobbies, or spending time with loved ones.
  • Professional Help: If the situation affects your mental health, consider seeking support from a therapist or counselor. They can provide strategies for coping with the stress of dealing with toxic co-workers.

Team members often form close bonds, but dealing with toxic coworkers can be challenging. It’s important to identify toxic traits like negativity, gossiping, bullying, lack of accountability, manipulation, and lack of empathy.

To manage toxic coworkers, lead by example, communicate openly, set boundaries, avoid gossip, seek support, consider your options, practice self-care, and seek professional help if needed. These steps can help maintain a positive work environment and protect your well-being.

Hear more about handling toxic coworkers with GoTu’s strategic advisor, Sonya Dunbar:

About Sonya Dunbar

In the vast landscape of the dental industry, where precision meets compassion, Sonya Dunbar emerges as a beacon of expertise, innovation, and advocacy. Affectionately known as the Geriatric Toothfairy, Sonya is not just a seasoned American dental hygienist; she is a TEDx speaker, international public figure, and a trailblazer in reshaping the narrative around oral health.

Sonya is a valued member of GoTu’s strategic advisor board. By leveraging her experience, GoTu is better able to equip the dental community with valuable skills and techniques that create happier people and more bountiful careers. Zen Zone with Sonya Dunbar is a monthly installment distributed across GoTu’s social channels with the goal of helping dental professionals navigate difficult situations with patients, colleagues, and work life balance.