My co-worker is toxic.

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This topic contains 9 replies, has 3 voices, and was last updated by  Cat 12 months ago.

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    Free Moon

    Oh, boy. I don’t even know where to begin.

    Let me tell you about my Chinese co-worker. I’ll call her Barbz. When I first started my job in March of last year, she was friendly and would always make conversation with me. However, there would be days when I was completely ignored by her, as if I didn’t even exist. I figured, maybe she’s the kind of person who warms up to people who would talk to her first, so I tried to do that… to no avail though. It came to a point where she wouldn’t even eat in the lunch room if I was there already. When my other co-worker asked her why she wouldn’t sit with us, Barbz would just say it’s too crowded when there are several empty seats left. At first, I just chalked it up as just the way she was brought up.

    … then there would be days that Barbz would talk to me again. She’ll constantly talk to me and joke around with me, and even joke about me (which I will get into later on). Guess what happens the next day though? She’d have a poker face on and pretend I don’t exist, once again. This ridiculous cycle of what I’ve called “silent bullying” has been going on for almost a year, and as an obvious result, I’ve had enough. I decided to just flat out ignore her.

    Now, Barbz has amplified her disregard to the respect for language. She always talks in Cantonese, even when the subject is related to work. She has already been reprimanded by one of the bosses that when it comes to work, English has to be spoken and personal conversations can be spoken in their native language. Of course, she chooses to talk in Cantonese in both cases, even when there are non-Cantonese speakers close by. Every day, I feel like she’s talking behind my back. I brought this issue up to my boss and my boss said that they can’t fire her because she knows too much about the company. She said it’s not about me because Barbz has done it to everyone else. The only advice I’ve gotten was to ignore Barbz.

    Barbz is the same girl who joked about my weight by calling me “chubby” and “standard” looking, and telling me that I eat too much or my lunch is unhealthy. Barbz is the same girl who has judged the way I dress by laughing and saying, “Is that your style?” Barbz is the same girl who has physically cut my conversation with my other co-worker by literally standing in between us and turning her back against me. Barbz is the same girl who said, “I can’t,” when my boss asked her to talk in English while we were all eating lunch. Barbz is the same girl who I’ve heard speak English decently enough for almost a year.

    I’ve never encountered a person like Barbz until I started working in this job. She’s made the work environment a toxic place for me.

    Will ignoring this issue help?



    Dear Free Moon:

    Good to read from you again. You managed to apply humor in describing her very annoying behavior, and that made the reading pleasant enough.

    You wrote: “my boss said that they can’t fire her because she knows too much about the company”- knows too much as … illegal going on things … or things the boss is afraid she will use to benefit another company if she is fired?



    Free Moon

    Hi, @anita!

    It’s nice to hear from you again. 🙂

    From my understanding, it is the latter; that Barbz might use the knowledge she got from our company to another company. My boss mentioned that Barbz is the only one who cares about the job out of the 4 or 5 people they hired before her, but nonetheless agreed to what I said about Barbz’ personality.



    Hi Free Moon,

    I can relate 100%. I’ve been at a job for 5 years, where my Senior is exactly the same. Some days she can be nice, and other days she can be just awful – ignoring, making passive judgemental comments etc. It isn’t just me she has been like it with, she is known for doing that to people when they are on their own with her. And yes, it is bullying. Everyone hates her, but she won’t leave because she’s been there for so long, but she complains about the job all the time – frustrating!

    I’ve spoken to her about this face-to-face many times and asked her if she had a personal problem, and she said no. I’ve tried being friends with her and offering her support, but still she stays the same…. I made formal complaints for months until it had to go to HR to investigate. HR said I needed to have meetings with my manager and the senior etc. but at the Xmas meal she made a passive comment, and I was a bit drunk so I said “next time say it to my face”, and she left early.

    I’ve had a lot going on in my life and I’ve been off work since Xmas – due to go back start of March…. I’m going to see how it goes, she might’ve changed and will back off now etc. I’m going to be looking for new jobs anyway….

    It’s important that you work with people you are comfortable with – that’s what makes you happiest. As much as I have loved my current job, it has been a bitchy environment which unfortunately has gotten in the way of what could be a really cool team. I say, surround yourself with people similar to yourself – unfortunately, a lot of people tend to just “go with the way it always has been” – and let’s bullying not be dealt with as seriously as it could be….If you’re brave enough, I say confront her and take bullying seriously – some people in the world need to.



    Free Moon

    Hi, @cat!

    I can’t believe people with this kind of personality have no sense of empathy! I’m sorry to hear about how your co-worker’s treating you. Let us know how her demeanor is when you go back to work in March.

    I didn’t think bullying would exist in a work place full of – what’s supposed to be – mature people. It’s unfortunate that bullying isn’t dealt with properly, seeing as how it probably exists in a lot of work places. My patience has been wearing thin with Barbz and I’m afraid I will lash out at her at any given moment. It’s easier to imagine confronting her in my head, but when it comes to real life, I’m worried I might say something simple that will be taken out of context.

    My conclusion is your co-worker and Barbz will definitely get along together… yikes. 🙁



    Hi Free Moon,

    I know, I also think it’s a massive lack of awareness as well. It’s weird, because she is so in to her food and nutrition, and yet does not care about how her behaviour has an effect on others. I definitely will! Hopefully I’ll only be there for one month, as I hope to get a new job. But I wanted to go back and finish the job properly, as I’ve been there for 5 years. I also thought it would suck not being able to say goodbye to the people we support, who are so lovely.

    Yes, it does – and I think it’s very character building and good confidence test to stand up to bullies. Best way to do it? Keep your cool, and when she’s being funny, just ask her questions. “So Barbz, how come you’re speaking Cantonese now?”, “So Barbz, you seem a bit miffed, whats up?” – and put her on the spot a bit. “Is something wrong? You seem off” etc etc. Best thing is to confront the behaviour rather than letting the passiveness remain passive, because that’s how they get away with it.

    My workplace situation was really bad. Because I’m the youngest I wasn’t being listened to. I wrote a personal letter to the manager, and then he gave it to the Senior when he was on holiday to deal with, even though he knew how much problems I’d had with her. And the senior then made passive comments about it to another member of staff in front of me, so I said I wasn’t putting up with it anymore, and I left the building – and went and complained to my managers manager.

    Now – HR have said I need to have meetings with the senior, and manager etc. But its taken months and hasn’t happened yet. Not sure what I want to do when I go back. I blocked all my colleagues on FB and IG, as I’ve been off past 2 months and needed a break. I’m going to ask my manager to ask my colleagues to not talk to me about my personal life, or ask me personal questions about my name change or why I was off etc. And to say I just want a fresh start.



    Free Moon


    That’s definitely a hard “yikes” on her behaviour. How have your other co-workers dealt with her? Did they bring up the issue to HR, as well? What was your manager’s opinion about the whole situation?

    It’s difficult to have the best of both worlds; either the person has a great personality, but poor work ethics, or vice versa. I find it upsetting that people who, like you said, have a lack of awareness aren’t willing to put themselves in other people’s perspectives. Sometimes, what might be the worst decision, but bring the best result is to physically remove ourselves from an environment that’s deeply affecting us in a negative way… but it’s easier said than done though. A toxic environment we’re both experiencing hinders our opportunity for growth.

    As for Barbz, I found it easier to ignore her like the way she’s doing to me because that way, I don’t have to worry about my life co-existing with hers. However, the problem is I’m still quite affected by her because she makes it obvious she has no willingness to improve her personality. My other co-workers who speak Cantonese/Mandarin know when to switch their language to English, so that everyone else can join, or at least, understand the conversation too.

    I wish you the best at your work, Cat! I’m hoping you do find another job where a behaviour like your co-worker or Barbz aren’t allowed to prosper.



    Hi Free Moon,

    Me and my colleague complained for ages about her, but nothing was done. I wrote a massive complaint to HR but left out names. My colleagues knew I was doing this. A lot of my colleagues were complaining to me about her etc. HR said that because her behaviour is so passive, it’s not sure if it counts as bullying but I have to have a meeting with her etc. etc…..The other managers just accept that she is very stuck up and snobby and don’t see it as bullying. It’s a hard one, she’s just a very judgey, stuck up person.

    I am currently in a transition period – I’m moving out of my house end of March and hopfully leaving my current job around the same time. I need a fresh start and people on my wavelength, it feels very freeing to feel relaxed around people – so always go for people you feel relaxed around as thats how you’ll be happiest.

    Haha, I love the fact her name is Barbzzzzz. Barbz the babe xD Is there any way to make a joke of it and make her laugh about her own behaviour? Sometimes that’s a good way to make people realise how they’re being!! With my Senior – I think she’s going through a lot at home, and so her mood depends on what’s going on in her life. When I go back, I’m going to try to not take it personally, and to set firm boundaries about how I’m spoke to etc.



    Free Moon


    I hope you had a great weekend!

    Has your co-worker been stuck-up and snobby to the managers, as well? I find it odd that they don’t find her attitude as bullying. However, I do hope your plans run smoothly! In the 5 years you’ve been at your job, I’m pretty sure you’ve learned a lot along the way, even learning how to endure and be patient with your co-worker. I’m excited for the next chapter in your life! 🙂

    Haha, I think I came up with Barbz’ name because of Barbie. I called her out last month on her attitude because she was negatively commenting on my physical look. Let me tell you how it went…

    I grabbed one – a singular piece of round chocolate with a diameter of no more than half an inch – Lindt chocolate from our office snack bar, then she said, “Are you sure you want to eat that? Your face will go… *proceeds to make hand motions of my face expanding*” My face went red out of disbelief, but I calmly told her, “You don’t say that to people. It’s impolite to point out people’s flaws in public. Even my friends and I don’t talk to each other like that.” Her defense was, “Oh, but I tell our boss she’s getting fatter and she’s okay with it.” I said, “People react differently; some are more sensitive than others. I still think it’s rude to say things like that.”

    I put back the chocolate in the snack bar. I signed up for the gym a few days after that incident. I’ve been going to the gym 3 to 4 times a week for more than a month now. I’ve completely stopped talking to her; I don’t look her way, I don’t go out of my way to make her feel left out like what she does to me, I don’t associate myself with the kind of person she is. So far, it has become slightly better for me, but I’m still upset that I let this happen to myself for almost a year.



    Hi Free Moon 🙂

    My weekend was okay actually. Since being off work I am learning the art of self-love, and to stop beating myself up in my head about things. I realise that I need to be surrounded by people who encourage this too, not people who want the opposite, such as the senior(!) I’ve had 2 months off and it’s done me a world of good. I’ll be moving to a city at the end of next month, which has creative people, more on my wavelength 🙂 🙂 Surrounding myself with positive support at the moment and reminding myself that life is what I make it/ I can choose the people and situations I have in it.

    My previous manager and the senior used to argue all the time!! Senior would find problems, and my old manager was a massssive diva character, so they’d have like a bitchy argument/ shouting fest!! And senior would storm away etc. ! The Senior just likes to make problems and be a pain in the ass. Weird environment right??? Before, the previous Deputy was a lot like the Senior, and they would both bully people. It hasn’t been a welcoming environment in the past, which is why as soon as new manager came in I started complaining properly about it all.

    I spoke to my manager today, and he said that when I go back, I need to have a closure meeting for my complaint with the Senior, to see how we move forward, how we learn from it and move forward. I said to him that I’ve been trying loads, but Senior obviously doesn’t like me (prejudice). He has fixed the rota so I am not working with her…. I said to him, I guess in my meeting I just have to be honest – best I can do! It’ll be interesting to see how the Senior responds in the meeting when confronted by myself and my managers manager….. In ways I’m worried that I’m going to get bullied, but my manager has been really supportive on the phone, and also I’ve been off sick as well, so it would look really really bad for them to bully me after that!!

    I’ll let you know how the meeting goes!!

    In terms of Barbz, it sounds like her personality is one that is grating on you….. I actually think this is because deep down you have a big personality that is waiting to come out too!! I learnt this about myself, going through bullying at work. I was most unhappy because I bit my tongue too much. Now, I simply say what I think back, and my mind is way more healthy and I’m happier!! There’s no point not saying what you think, because otherwise it just stays in your mind and you kick yourself going “I wish I had the confidence to stand up to them” – my advice, is do it!!!!! If you don’t, it sends the message that those people will always be the loudest ones….Whereas my life’s mission is to inspire all the decent, goodhearted, intelligent people who remain silent to start shocking the world, and standing up, and winning arguments with their logic and intelligence 🙂 which is what I think you could do with Barbz….. She’s not a threat to you at all, she’s just another person. I bet it would wind her up if you called her out on her game and said “Okay, it’s clear you don’t like me. I’m not going to try and make you. But I’d appreciate it if you’d stop focusing on me, because I’m finding it weird” – say that or something, and make her look stupid!! 🙂

    In terms of speaking up/ being yourself etc. I found myself in a similar situation the other day, where I was misunderstood, and was forced to stand up for myself. I did, and I’m really glad I did because it gave me even more balls and drive to be respected by others.

    Here’s what happened:

    One of the few times I head in to town (because a lot of the time I stay at home with depression and anxiety), to put up some gig posters. I went in to a charity shop (who still had my old poster up from before). It went like this:

    Me: “Hey, is it okay to put my gig poster up in here please? My old one’s still in the window”.
    Woman on till: “Yes sure, so you already know that it’s 50p to put up a poster”.
    (I didn’t know this as before the woman let me put it up for free, so I just replied honestly).
    Me: “Oh I didn’t know that, as last time the woman let me put it up for free”.
    Woman on till: “Yes, it’s 50p, as most places charge to put it up”.
    (Again, I wasn’t saying that I wasn’t going to pay the 50p, I just know that other places in town don’t charge so I replied honestly).
    Me: “Oh really? Most of the cafe’s let me put it up for free”.
    (I was starting a general conversation, I never said I wasn’t going to pay the 50p).

    There was a girl in the shop, who I’ve previously encountered at one of my gigs, who tried to close the door of the venue (and therefore would make me lose potential people), because “not everyone wants to hear that”. Although I reminded her that I was paying £80 for the venue, and it wasn’t 11pm yet so the door should stay open. (The door stayed open).

    This girl was in the shop and made a passive snide remark (she was trying to be very belittling):
    “It’s just 50p, it’s a tiny little charity!”

    Me: “Of course I’ll pay the 50p, I was only asking”.

    *I pay the 50p*

    Women on till: “Would you like to put it up or should I?”
    Me: “You can do it if you want, thanks”.

    Before I left I went up to the girl and said:
    “Excuse me, but next time can you mind your own business”.

    Then there was outrage.

    Women on till: “You know what, I’m not putting your poster up, you’re trouble. You’re stroppy”.
    Me: “Why? Because I stand up for myself?”

    *I take the poster back”

    Women on till: *continues calling me names*, “You can have your 50p back”.

    Me: “Keep your fucking 50p”.


    – This happened a couple weeks ago. The girl in the shop tries to intimidating and she would succeed if I allowed it, but I force myself to be brave and think of her as being equal to me, therefore if anyone makes me feel small, I then make them feel small. Same with the colleague at the xmas dinner. It’s hard, it’s scary, but bullies need to be called out as much as possible because they get away with it far too often.

    Most the time it’s people so unhappy in themselves/ own lives that they don’t know anything different.




    Hello –

    I have a somewhat similar situation, and am eager to hear any advice people have. I work with someone who is pleasant enough. We laugh and joke together, and generally get along. The problem that I’m running into is that this person’s way of being, as in his general attitudes toward aspects of life, are upsetting to me. I live in the midwest, so I can’t say that his behavior is unusual necessarily, but I don’t typically have to deal with it so frequently or up-close.

    For example, he told me that he and his wife are anti-vaccers……..uh, okay. Fine I guess. She’s pregnant now. Best of luck to you.

    Another example – He told me that he wants to start breeding dogs. I told him that if he does that, he should watch a video of dogs being euthanized at the humane society. Every dog that he sells is one that isn’t adopted, and is euthanized at a shelter. He said he won’t, and thinks he can make great money. He wants to breed dogs that have to have C-sections to give birth, meaning he’ll be keeping these animals in a state of perpetual pain.

    Also, he’s told me that he adopted a cat to control rodents on his property. When he thought the cat ate chickens on his farm, he put it out in the city to fend for itself. It’s 18 degrees right now. We’ve had freezing rain and snow. There’s a young cat somewhere that is starving and freezing, if not dead because this guy doesn’t think.

    He strikes me as being remarkably unaware and wreckless, and it generally offends me. Not as in, “you called me a name and now I’m mad” – but to a deeper level. His views and behavior, MANY more examples come to mind than what I typed above, are damaging. They’re damaging to me and in my opinion to the world in general.

    What do I do with this person? It seems short sighted to just ignore him. Could I try to convince him that these things are hurtful? Maybe, although probably not. He imagines himself a conservative “farm boy” and I think he would prefer to keep it that way. Should I try? I don’t know – I guess. It’s different than the example above because we generally get along. He’s never been nearly as rude as some of the examples previously posted.

    What is the compassionate and responsible thing to do with this relationship? What should a Buddhist do to respond to what is perceived cruelty? What is the enlightened path? This guy, to me, is a case study. While he may not be the most important or significant obstacle I’ll encounter, he represents a sample. Something difficult, but manageable to practice Buddhist teachings.

    Thank you.

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