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#4 - Dealing with toxic behaviour - Reactions and consequences

Situations with people who behave in a persistently toxic way towards you can be very unpleasant and really harmful in the long term. It is therefore important to develop and get to know mechanisms and behaviours that we can use to protect ourselves in these situations. This is particularly important so that we don't follow our own triggers and find ourselves in the role of victim again and again and get caught up in the situation again and again.

A very first response to toxic behaviour can therefore be:

Don't try to justify, explain or defend yourself. This reaction can lead to endless discussions and further conflict. Firstly, assume that the other person neither hears you nor is prepared to respond to you and your concerns. In the case of narcissists, for example, this keeps you involved and stuck in the relationship pattern. Each time, the reaction pattern starts all over again.

It is therefore generally important to develop good demarcation mechanisms. Of course, this probably also means a big growth spurt for you to break your own vicious circle, which you may have known so well since childhood or from other relationships. Recognise your options and the chance to change something for yourself!

Further reaction options

Toxic behaviour in the workplace can trigger various reactions and consequences, depending on the company, the working environment and the severity of the behaviour. The possibilities are varied and can include the following reactions:

Personal aspects:

  • Rejection and distancing: For self-protection, you can avoid the person or group and keep your distance.

  • Confrontation: You can address the behaviour directly with the person and threaten them with appropriate consequences in order to bring about change. Of course, this requires that you are stable and have enough strength to handle the confrontation appropriately without slipping into your patterns.

  • Emotional reactions: Experiencing a variety of emotions, including anger, sadness, frustration, hurt or disappointment.

  • Self-protective mechanisms: Unfortunately, this type of reaction tends to lead to escape and avoidance of the situation, often resulting in the building of emotional walls or the resorting to familiar patterns of reaction to conflict.

  • Self-reflection and self-improvement: Those affected can be encouraged to reflect on their own behaviour and reactions. This enables personal growth and self-improvement and can lead to recognising and avoiding one's own negative behaviour.

  • Internal conflicts: If someone you like or respect treats you in a toxic way, there may be an internal conflict between loyalty and self-protection.

  • Changes in social dynamics: Toxic behaviour can cause tension and changes in social groups or relationships, which can affect the dynamics within those groups. Here it is important to look at how the group as a whole, but also each individual, deals with the situation. In any case, toxic behaviour leads to changes in interpersonal relationships - be it alienation, a rupture or a re-evaluation of the relationship.

  • Psychological effects: In the long term, psychological effects such as anxiety, depression, low self-esteem or other mental and psychosomatic health issues can result.

  • Social reactions: This can occur especially when toxic behaviour becomes public knowledge or affects a larger group.

  • Seek help and support: One of the most important supports is to get help, confide in yourself and take good care of yourself. This can be in very different constellations - family, friends, experts, colleagues, superiors, coaching, your faith, etc. See what is right for you individually.

Reactions within the company:

  • Internal investigation: As a company, it is important to react to toxic behaviour. At best, an internal investigation of the incident is carried out first to clarify the facts and to assess and evaluate the impact on the working environment.

  • Disciplinary measures: Depending on the severity of the toxic behaviour, disciplinary action can be taken, such as a warning, suspension or, in the worst case, dismissal. Legal action should be taken in the event of particularly serious or unlawful toxic behaviour.

  • Employee training: Training courses or workshops inform employees about acceptable behaviour in the workplace, ways to resolve conflicts and how to deal with stress or other causes of toxic behaviour.

  • Conflict mediation: When conflicts arise between employees, mediation can provide a good format for finding a solution and improving workplace relationships.

  • Psychological support: If toxic behaviour is due to personal or psychological problems, the company can offer support from an occupational psychologist or external counsellors.

  • Policy changes: The company can review, update or generally introduce its policies and procedures to prevent and respond to toxic behaviour in the workplace. In some cases or in large companies, it makes sense to consider a specialised position that deals exclusively with these issues and takes care of employees individually.

  • Support and solidarity: The company should ensure that those affected by toxic behaviour (both as perpetrators and recipients) receive appropriate support. In particular, coaching and counselling, relocation or other measures that restore safety and well-being are conceivable. This support can help to mitigate the negative effects of toxic behaviour and empower those affected.

  • Cultural change: In the long term, a positive corporate culture should be promoted that supports respectful behaviour, open communication and collaboration and prevents toxic behaviour in the workplace.

  • Public discussion and awareness-raising: Toxic behaviour can lead to public discussions that can raise awareness of certain behaviours and contribute to raising awareness of the impact of toxic behaviour on society, companies and groups.

Reactions to toxic behaviour can always vary because they depend on so many different factors such as the personality of the people involved, the type of behaviour and the social or cultural environment, existing company guidelines and cultures, legal regulations, the individual circumstances of the incident, the needs of the employees involved and much more.

I will examine these in more detail in the next few posts and highlight the differences. This is because, particularly in defined positions, you have taken on a clear responsibility towards other people and therefore have a different field of action.

Of course, it always depends on the strength and intensity of the toxic behaviour as well as the maturity and strength of those affected as to how the dynamic subsequently develops.

Nevertheless, instead of constantly setting boundaries or emotionally resisting or even fighting, it is certainly important to try out whether it doesn't make sense to take responsibility for yourself and stop handing yourself over.

The first step would definitely be to try staying with yourself and your own version, embodying your own values and taking on the role of observer instead of allowing yourself to be drawn into the passion of others. I know it's easier said than done. But this is exactly where it's so important to take good care of yourself, get help when you need it and find your own path.

Get support to give you confidence in dealing with such personalities!

There is always a solution! Trust yourself!


Coaching offers ideal support here to either take the first steps in conflict management and analysing one's own reaction structures or to directly implement new skills that enable and empower all those involved to learn to deal well and confidently with corresponding situations in relationships. Another option is to act as a mediator or observer and outline a neutral picture of the prevailing relationship patterns in the department or company and use this to provide insights and recommendations for action to the decision-makers.

Trusting that the best possible solution will be allowed to develop and be implemented.


Coaching can provide you with targeted support in overcoming upcoming challenges at every stage - internally in the team or as a leader in the company. Let's work out together how I can provide you in your individual situation with optimal support and customised assistance.

Contact me to take your next steps

Nicole Dildei Coaching

+49 157 58 267 427

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