You know the type. It’s the colleague who seems to have a cloud of negativity not just above them, but all around them. They get satisfaction from causing problems or making people angry. They bring stress to any situation. They’re toxic. And, just like office bullies who defy workplace norms, they’re hard to escape.
Dealing with poisonous people and negotiating with bullies are topics LinkedIn Influencers weighed in on this week. Here’s what two of them had to say.
Travis Bradberry, author and President at TalentSmart
Toxic people cause strife and worst of all, stress, wrote Bradberry in his post How Successful People Handle Toxic People. “Stress is a formidable threat to your success — when stress gets out of control, your brain and your performance suffers.”
Research that Bradberry’s company conducted showed that “90% of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress… (remaining) calm and in control,” he wrote. “One of their greatest gifts is the ability to neutralise toxic people. Top performers have well-honed coping strategies that they employ to keep toxic people at bay.”
Bradberry offered 12 of the most effective strategies these top performers use to deal with noxious people. Among them:
“Set limits (especially with complainers). People often feel pressure to listen to complainers because they don’t want to be seen as callous or rude, but there’s a fine line between lending a sympathetic ear and getting sucked into their negative emotional spiral,” Bradberry wrote. “You can avoid this only by setting limits and distancing yourself when necessary. A great way to set limits is to ask complainers how they intend to fix the problem. They will either quiet down or redirect the conversation in a productive direction.”
“Rise above. Toxic people drive you crazy because their behaviour is so irrational. Make no mistake about it; their behaviour truly goes against reason. Which begs the question, why do you allow yourself to respond to them emotionally and get sucked into the mix?,” wrote Bradberry. “The more irrational and off-base someone is, the easier it should be for you to remove yourself from their traps... Distance yourself from them emotionally and approach your interactions like they’re a science project.”
“Stay aware of (your) emotions. Maintaining an emotional distance requires awareness. You can’t stop someone from pushing your buttons if you don’t recognise when it’s happening. Sometimes you’ll find yourself in situations where you’ll need to regroup and choose the best way forward,” he wrote. “Sometimes it’s best to just smile and nod… (and) give yourself some time to plan.”
“Don’t focus on problems — only solutions. “Where you focus your attention determines your emotional state. When you fixate on the problems you’re facing, you create and prolong negative emotions and stress,. When it comes to toxic people, fixating on how crazy and difficult they are gives them power over you, Bradberry wrote. “Focus instead on how you're going to go about handling them. This makes you more effective by putting you in control.”
Victoria Pynchon, negotiation consultant at She Negotiates Consulting and Training
How do bullies get their power? When you respond to their aggressive tactics by conceding, wrote Pynchon in her post How to Negotiate With Bullies. So, what should you do instead?
“(Bullies) accuse, threaten, annoy, pester, shame, raise their voices, shake their fists and sometimes even get physically pushy,” wrote Pynchon. “So long as your mental and physical well-being is assured, understand that these are playground tactics and you are the playground monitor.”
In the office, “your best protection against the workplace bully is identifying the tactics he's using and resisting them without raising the stakes or escalating the conflict,” she wrote. “Keep a cool head, respond to contentious tactics with an even tone and demand rational responses.”
How, exactly, can you do this? For starters, take control. “If the conversation is starting to spiral out of control, use one of these immediate, quietly intoned, statements,” Pynchon wrote. Among the most effective: “’Let’s come back to this when you’re in a calmer state of mind (or) I’m going to terminate this discussion right now, but if you’re willing to continue… later in a more civil tone, I’m happy to reconvene’.”
“Push back against brutish conduct if need be, but do not fold, nor cut and run,” she wrote. Instead, be willing to end the conversation (or a negotiation) if needed. Don’t be taken in. “You are in control of you.”
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