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Dear Dr. Yael,

I have a really toxic co-worker . On one level, I know that she is only someone I work with and Baruch Hashem I have a wonderful husband, amazing children, and great relationships with my parents and in-laws. However, on another level, I’m miserable at work and it’s starting to spill over into my personal life. I am a positive person, and this co-worker is constantly manipulating me into thinking that I am the one who causes her problems, when she is the person who aggravates me so much. This co-worker is argumentative with other people at work as well. However, she knows how to charm our boss and since she is very pretty and well-dressed, he lets her get away with more than the rest of us. Unfortunately this co-worker is divorced, with no children, so the job is her life. Often, she will give more time to the job as she doesn’t have the same home responsibilities as some of the rest of us do. However, she makes critical mistakes and somehow always blames others for her mistakes (and gets away with it!). I do not want to leave this job since I like the other people there and I enjoy doing the work. Please give me ideas on how to handle this toxic co-worker.


Frustrated at work


Dear Frustrated at Work,

I read a great saying that applies to you “Toxic People Love Playing the Victim. What’s even more crazy is how they are so good at manipulating people into thinking you are the bad guy.” Toxic people are often insecure people, who need to be right and have things their way. They often come from toxic homes where they were not nurtured properly. In your situation this co-worker’s toxicity is very difficult since you personalize her behavior. “If people hurt you, just remember one thing. They are not doing it because of who you are. They’re doing it because of who they are.” This co-worker clearly has issues that are deeper and her behavior reflects who she is. As you stated, she is divorced with no children and maybe does not have all the positive, loving relationships in her life that you have in your life. She may be jealous of your life and therefore is choosing to make you miserable.

All my observations are based on the information that you are giving me in this question. I clearly do not know what is transpiring in this situation.

I know it is best for you to be strong and not focus on this workmate. Don’t give her power to control your life.

It is only you who can remove yourself from the toxicity that you are experiencing by keeping a distance from this workmate and doing the best job that you can do.

In life we all get challenges. Please focus on all the brachas you have in your life. This person is basically a stranger and you do not know what she personally is enduring in her life. Try to be civil and limit your communication with her at work. Keep a paper trail of everything you are doing, so it will be more difficult for her to blame you for her mistakes. Of course, this will make your life a little harder, but it can possibly protect you if needed.

Baruch Hashem this is not a challenge that you should take personally. Please focus on all the brachas in your life. Of course, it is understandable that this is making you miserable, but at the end of the day, you have to decide if you want to stay at this job because you like the work and other people you work with or if you need to leave because this woman is making your life miserable. Perhaps you can talk to your boss in a smart way and ask if you can be put on different projects to further separate you from this co-worker. Hatzlacha!

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Dr. Yael Respler is a psychotherapist in private practice who provides marital, dating and family counseling. Dr. Respler also deals with problems relating to marital intimacy. Letters may be emailed to [email protected]. To schedule an appointment, please call 917-751-4887. Dr. Orit Respler-Herman, a child psychologist, co-authors this column and is now in private practice providing complete pychological evaluations as well as child and adolescent therapy. She can be reached at 917-679-1612. Previous columns can be viewed at and archives of Dr. Respler’s radio shows can be found at