Surrounded by Toxic Co-Workers? This Helps Explain Their Actions

Toxic co-workers collide in an angry scene from the film 'Knockout'

Toxic co-workers collide in an angry scene from the film ‘Knockout’ | Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images

Toxic relationships can manifest anywhere, including at home and in the workplace. In fact, most of us probably have “that guy” or “that gal” at our place of employment, whose mere presence seems to lower the overall mood, impact productivity, and shut your own personal sense of peace and well-being down. These are toxic co-workers, and try as you might, you’re going to have a few over the course of your career.

Toxic co-workers may be the result of a toxic work environment or may be born of the nature of the work itself. There are jobs and careers that are seemingly innately toxic, and working them day in day out can take a toll on an individual. The only thing you can really do, if you find yourself working with someone who is generally unpleasant, is try your best to not emulate their behavior — or let it get to you.

We’ve become rather accepting of not only toxic work environments but toxic co-workers themselves. The courts have even given these people legal protections to act like jerks at work, surprisingly enough. But that doesn’t mean we can’t wonder what it is that makes these people so awful and take measures for course-correction. The problem is that it’s difficult to get inside someone’s head.

Well, the experts at Northwestern and Harvard University have managed to give us a glimpse at those firing synapses, and figure out why some people are just so difficult to deal with. As it turns out, our minds tend to give us blinders when it comes to our own behavior and ethics — or recollections of our behavior, anyway.