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Dealing With a Toxic Coworker in Recovery? Here’s How to Manage…

We all know them – and many of us have worked with them. The toxic coworker.

Whether they’re gossiping behind your back, causing trouble on-the-job, or making passive aggressive comments to you or another coworker, it’s important to create a plan so they don’t have the power to ruin your day or harm your recovery.

If you’re in a difficult situation at work and don’t know what to do, try these steps to manage the situation in a healthy way that will support your recovery, not harm it.

Talk About It – But Not With Your Coworkers.

Processing a situation or stressor can be helpful, but try to avoid debriefing with coworkers. Find a safe person you can trust, like a sponsor, professional mentor, recovery coach or impartial friend who doesn’t know anyone at your place of work.

It can help to vent and process the irritation, but if you vent to the wrong person it can become a bigger situation than it needs to be. And if there does come a time to confront your coworker directly, it will always be better to go directly to the source and avoid causing ripples with anyone else.

Processing the situation in a healthy way will help you avoid forming resentments, which can keep your recovery strong and give you a more positive attitude.

Find a Healthy Coping Skill.

Whether you hit the gym after work or schedule in regular breaks during the work day, try to find a healthy coping skill that can help you burn off steam when you need it. You might even have a list of coping strategies saved up from treatment or from other friends in recovery. Now is the time to use them, and there’s no shame in turning to your recovery resources for help.

Making healthy coping a regular practice in your life will help create healthy habits that automatically kick in on tough days, whether at work or in another part of your life.

Have a Mantra to Get Through the Day.

Whether it’s a motivational quote or a phrase from an AA group, having a mantra to repeat in your mind throughout the day can be a healthy, grounding way to shrug off stress from a toxic coworker.

For example, if a coworker walks past you and makes a passive aggressive remark, you might want to respond or get angry with him or her. But instead, pause and think to yourself…”When in doubt, don’t.” This is just one simple recovery quote that can go a long way in moments of stress. It might even make you laugh, too.

Evaluate Your Situation.

Recovery gives you coping skills to handle life on life’s terms – but that doesn’t always mean you should stay where you are. Sometimes, the best thing you can do is use your wisdom to discern when it’s time to exit a toxic or stressful situation.

If you’re in a job or career that you love aside from the one or few negative coworkers, it might be wise to stick it out. But if you’re working in an entry level job or are still trying to figure out what your career will be, it could help to leave the toxic environment in search for a better job that will better harness and appreciate your gifts and talents.

No matter what you choose, it’s important not to make the decision in a moment of anger or impulsivity. Take a few days, or even a couple of weeks to process the situation with your recovery support system. When you make a decision whether to stay or go, you’ll feel confident in the choice you make, which can help you walk forward decisively and “not regret the past, nor wish to shut the door on it.”

Don’t Let it Consume You.

Dealing with a difficult coworker can bring a whole set of negative emotions, so try your hardest not to let it become all consuming. Giving a negative coworker your full attention gives him or her the power – so take it back. Instead, think about all of the great things in your life, from your recovery to the sun shining outside.

For many people, doing something nice for someone else can be an easy way to get the mind off of negativity and into a more positive state. Write a card to someone you care about, buy a stranger’s coffee or just smile at someone as you walk down the street. Making the conscious choice to be unaffected by another person’s negativity is a big step in recovery, and one that will lead to a happier life and a more resilient recovery. Otherwise put, “dealing with life on life’s terms.”

Depending on where you are in your recovery, stressful situations like a gossiping or negative coworker can quickly become a trigger for relapse if you’re not careful. So take the little irritations and stressors seriously.

Learn to talk about these moments with a sponsor, recovery coach, or even journal about it. Becoming aware that you’re irritated, and accurately pinpointing the source and creating a plan to respond in a healthy way will help you keep these moments in perspective as small irritations, not causes of relapse.



Images Courtesy of iStock

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