You know what I'm talking about.

That nitpicking, mean, negative, rude, gossipy, conniving, or otherwise toxic person you just can't seem to escape at work.

He or she is at your desk constantly. You have to sit through meetings with him or her. He or she hovers in the lunchroom. The stench of his or her criticisms wafts through the workplace, threatening to permeate your own work, if you aren't careful.

In fact, you're pretty sure he or she is working against you behind your back.

Or worse, he or she is outright combative.

You can't escape these people-they're part of your everyday routine. Toxic people may undermine, they may sabotage, but whatever their insidious actions and motives, they definitely have an effect on the people who have to work with them.

But what can you do about it? Plenty. Try some of these tactics:

1. Personal Power Check

No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.-Eleanor Roosevelt

Start by firmly and swiftly booting the person out of your head. We can't control how people act, but we have 100 percent control over how we react to them.

Stop giving toxic people your head space. This is incredibly difficult, but you end up sabotaging your efforts if you're obsessing over what someone else is doing, or what he or she might do next. You overthink your decisions and consider their feedback before it's even been offered (or thrust upon you).

Take the emotion out of your reaction to toxic people. They're going to do what they're going to do, but you don't have to get upset about it. Get right with that reality, and start taking your personal power back.

2. Distance Yourself

If you share workspace, putting physical distance between your toxic influence and yourself may not be possible, but try. Watch for space opening up that you could lay claim to. Find a reason you need to work somewhere else in the building.

If that doesn't work, distance yourself mentally and emotionally. Are you allowed to wear headphones at your desk? Music might help you tune him or her out, but you don't even have to play anything-wearing headphones is a buffer that tells people they'll have to interrupt if they need something. It helps cut off the instant access that might have someone in your ear every five minutes.

If breaks are an issue, start taking your lunch outside. Find a park, go for a walk-just get away from the office and the toxic person for a brief respite when you can.

3. Put Your Foot Down

Know your boundaries, and make sure they're clear to those around you. If the toxic person flies right past the annoying line and becomes abusive or otherwise inappropriate for a professional setting, make a complaint. Taking it sitting down tells the person your boundaries are farther than he or she thought, and there is a lot more he or she can get away with.

Don't allow it to become personal. A complaint about inappropriate behavior in the workplace should not become a laundry list of every nasty thing the person has ever done to you. Keep it succinct and professional; be clear about which workplace rules he or she is breaking and how it affects the workplace as a whole.

Yes, there will be backlash. Be ready for it, and don't take it to heart. You might just find that others start putting their foot down as well.

4. Let Them Act Out

Don't completely block out a toxic person. Yes, you need distance, and you need to put your foot down, but this is also a person you need to cooperate with on some level, given your mutual employment. It's not like a toxic friend-you can't just stop answering the phone.

Let him or her speak, share his or her ideas (even if they suck), give his or her input (even if it's off base and mean), and don't interrupt.

Give these people the opportunity to have their say. If that means others in the workplace see how toxic the person is, bonus. It can also help defuse situations that could become explosive; no one likes to be shut out entirely.

You don't want to be accused of being the one who won't listen or is difficult. Give him or her the respect he or she deserves in his or her professional position so you're poised to ask for the same.

5. Counterstrike: Mission Positivity

The absolute best way to counter negative, toxic, soul-sucking people is to surround yourself with people who lift you up and give you energy instead.

Make a conscious decision to spend more time with the fun, happy, constructive people in your workplace. Uplifting people are a great counterbalance to toxicity.

Look inside, too. Check your self-speak-those million little things we tell ourselves on a regular basis. Take note when you're thinking and telling yourself negative things, which just might echo the things a toxic person has told you before. Reframe these things into positives.

Moving Past Toxic People in the Workplace

Life isn't always fair; it's sad but true. You might have to work alongside toxic people throughout your entire career. You can't change them, so it's up to you to decide how you're going to deal with them and move past it.

Even when you can't physically move on to a new position or a new company, you can mentally move past toxic people. Leave them behind. If they're not helping you, they don't deserve your attention and certainly aren't something to stay awake over at night.

Published on: Jun 12, 2014