From road-raging drivers to rude salespeople and noisy neighbors, difficult people populate your life. But nowhere is negative social interaction more unwelcome than in the place where you spend so many hours: your workplace. Identifying toxic co-workers and their habits is the first step toward defusing negative workplace interaction before it leads to damaged morale, reduced productivity, resignations or even violence.
Bullying and harassment in the workplace can occur between an employer and employee as well as among co-workers. Conduct that intimidates or threatens an employee or co-worker to the extent that it interferes with his ability to do the job can create a hostile work environment that hurts morale and productivity. In some cases, bullying or harassment can even violate federal laws that protect employees from discrimination based on race, gender, age, religious affiliation, ethnicity, sexual orientation or disability.
Sexual harassment can range from off-color jokes and teasing to quid pro quo proposals in which an employee is offered a promotion or pay raise in exchange for sexual favors or is punished or threatened with firing when such proposals are refused. Inappropriate conduct applies to sexually explicit cartoons, graffiti and email as well as unwelcome physical contact. An employer or manager can be considered part of the problem and become legally liable under federal and state laws if he is made aware of the situation and fails to take action.
Being forced to take over the workload of co-workers who are goofing off is bound to cause resentment among affected employees. Social loafing describes people who spend more of their office hours sharing details of their personal activities or discussing TV shows with co-workers than actually working. A slacker will try to get others to do his work by claiming to be too busy while he is surfing the Web, updating Facebook and Twitter, or chatting on a cell phone.
Insecure employees might try to boost themselves by belittling others with put-downs, usually within earshot of their superiors. Others may steal ideas and give themselves credit for work done by colleagues. A saboteur can undermine a group’s project by leaving work undone and then flying to the rescue, completing the project and trying to claim the glory for its success.
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