Navigating Minefields in the Office

Not every workplace has a toxic employee – but even non-toxic workplaces have their challenges.

If the Workplace Bullying Institute’s numbers are correct, then 48% of us have either been bullied, are currently being bullied or have witnessed bullying in the workplace. (see: That’s half of the workforce. That’s a lot.

And for those of us lucky enough to not work in a workplace where that happens, we still have to deal with interpersonal dynamics. Even if we do get along, conflicts between people happen.

How can we navigate the potential minefields that exist in every office? Reason, compassion and action. The hallmarks of the humanist approach to life (see:

In my career, I have dealt successfully with toxic people, annoying people, passive aggressive people and I’ve even survived a coordinated attempt to attack my character and get me fired, successfully.

I’ve survived all of these things because a) I’m a good person who is honest and conscientious. b) I own up to and correct my mistakes quickly. And c) I apply my reason and compassion to the problem to develop a strategy that will help me succeed despite what is being thrown at me.

Is it easy? No. Whenever these things happen, they catch me off guard like they do all of us. Most people are nice. Most of us just want to get our work done and do it well. People who are walking time bombs of insecurity are not the norm. It’s upsetting to become targeted by these people. The only thing worse than being targeted, is to be a walking time bomb of insecurity. I feel sorry for them.

By considering them compassionately, I resist the urge to demonize them. Not only can I treat them with respect, even if they fail to respect me, I can also often defuse the problem by using my reason to solve our collective problem because I’m not so upset or angry that I behave immorally in response to them.

While fighting back or defending yourself may feel emotionally satisfying, it does more harm than good. Behaving morally and ethically and conscientiously means I’m not adding to the problem. I’m just trying to get my work done and get along as best I can with other people. If I make a mistake, I correct it. I don’t blame anyone else. This is why it has been easy for all of my managers to see that I’m not the problem. I’m not!

Navigating the minefields of the office is hard, but you don’t need to tip toe around people who are just waiting to go off. You don’t serve your company or your coworkers well by avoiding them. Do your job. Do it well and be nice to everyone, including the jerks. If someone is intentionally making it hard to get work done document that fact. If they want to dig their own hole, you can’t stop them. But you can provide proof that they are the ones who dug the hole.

If you need help dealing with anger in yourself and others – consider taking this course by Dr. Leon Seltzer -

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