4 steps to productively talk to your boss about a toxic co-worker

How to deal with difficult coworkers without losing your mind
How to deal with difficult coworkers without losing your mind

Whether you have issues with a co-worker or your boss, working in a toxic office setting is detrimental not only to your health and wellness, but your overall career. Or, you might even be that toxic coworker and not realize it.

Leadership development firm Fierce, Inc. surveyed over 1,000 American full-time workers and found that over half of them just ignore toxic colleagues and less than quarter of them muster up the courage to confront those individuals directly.

Fierce executive vice president and leadership expert Stacey Engle tells CNBC Make It that it's natural to feel fear or discomfort when confronting others.

"When it comes to toxic behavior, a lot is at stake," Engle says. "Ignoring the issue will cost an organization and its employees by negatively impacting morale, productivity, and well-being."

The survey also finds that simply telling your boss about the toxic colleague isn't always effective. Only 18 percent of employees complain to upper management and almost half of them say their management doesn't do anything to address the issue.

"Some people do not react well when confronted, regardless of how eloquent and thoughtful you are," Engle says. "Luckily, the more you have these challenging conversations, the more empowering and less intimidating they become."

Here are four steps Engle says you can take to have a productive talk with your boss about a toxic co-worker.

Know your issue

If you aren't sure how to describe the toxic nature of your relationship with a co-worker, the detrimental traits survey respondents mentioned include laziness, negative attitude, passive-aggressiveness, blaming others and gossiping.

"The first step in preparing to confront anyone is to name the issue for yourself," Engle says.

"Have specific examples of times you've felt the employee has affected your job."

Some examples can include a project gone wrong or simply your ability to be satisfied in your role, she adds.

Schedule a time

To make sure you have a successful conversation and don't catch your boss off guard, Engle recommends scheduling a meeting with him or her.

"People are busy. It's not uncommon that throughout the day employees get pulled in many different directions," Engle says. "Catching them off-guard can mean that emotion from an issue that has nothing to do with you seeps into your conversation."

"You deserve the individual's full attention," Engle says. "Make it a priority for both of you."

Prepare yourself

Addressing the situation doesn't mean full on venting and bashing your colleague to your boss. Engle emphasizes that confrontation conversations should be two-sided.

"Indicate the desire to resolve the matter and invite response," Engle says.

"This is not a one-sided speech," Engle says. "Invite your partner to respond. The point is to learn more about their side and to clarify the bigger issue."

Discuss a next step

Most workers in the survey said they wish their organizations were less tolerant of toxic employees.

Engle recommends that you communicate your ideal outcome with your boss and plan next steps.

"Leaving the meeting with a plan for what steps will be taken, perhaps on both ends, is important in ensuring lasting results," Engle says.

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