Toxic waste. It’s everywhere in the world today … in discarded plastics that will surely not rot for centuries, in printer cartridge powders that once stuck to your fingers refusing to come off and in your co-worker’s special blend of cowboy coffee. And, of course, Naples also has more than its fair share of it these days.

There is another variety of this deadly waste that lives and breathes among us. Let’s affectionately (not) call them your toxic co-workers. The damage they can do to your career, your morale and your basic sense of happiness in this world is quite impressive.

The sound-effect techYou enter the room and the show begins. Be it the ever so popular loud sigh, timely throat-clearing cough or the quick conversational topic switcheroo, the sound-effect technician never ceases to deliver. The only things missing are the laser lights and the background music. Devoid of true communication skills, this individual resorts to childlike behavior to make his or her points of destruction.

Rx: In a perfect world, you could banish this annoying co-worker to a time out, a punishment fitting the crime perfectly. In our less than perfect society, however, you’ll have to be the grown-up and confront the immature one directly.

Try the discreet route, going one-on-one with the techie first. Determine what major offense you have committed in life and make amends if necessary and appropriate. If that approach doesn’t work, call her out in front of her co-workers with “It seems as if something is on your mind. Would you like to talk about it?” Finally, if the behavior persists, begin a documentation process and once you have a decent sized case, take it up the chain of command.

The bullyIt’s his way or the highway, so to speak. Never one to have an open mind, the bully demands a defining role in every aspect of the organization. He is a more aggressive version of the micromanager and he can be dangerous. He has been known to threaten bodily harm in subtle or not so subtle ways. In short, he is a wild card that has risen to a position of authority. Everyone is afraid of him and afraid to say so.

Rx: History tells us that these types of individuals must not be allowed to live long and prosper, organizationally speaking. If you encounter such an individual, then you owe it to yourself and your fellow colleagues to get the goods on this guy as soon as possible. Get higher management to do something about it before law enforcement has to be called in over a more serious matter.

The energy vampireYou arrive at your day job, fresh from a good night’s sleep, ready to tackle the world. There you sit, at your desk, coffee mug filled, and in swoops the energy vampire. You didn’t even see her coming because if you did, you could have pulled an emergency evasive maneuver. In a matter of seconds, your energy level has plummeted. No stranger to daylight, this vampire thrives on telling you every detail of her personal and professional lives. By the time she leaves, you are emotionally, physically and mentally wiped out.

Rx: Garlic and wooden stakes are ineffective against this fiend. If a friendly cut-off doesn’t work, then you’ll have to show her the hand. “I’d love to hear about it but I’m busy now. Call me!” And then turn on your answering machine.

The doting relativeNo one loves a new baby better than a new mother, father or grandparent. To be fair, you have to give them their moments of glory. It’s the circle of life and our whole reason for being after all. Suppose after a respectable period of time, however, the daily updates turn into mind-numbing incessant chatter detailing every step made by their gifted offspring. In short, you’ve had enough and you just can’t take it anymore.

Rx: See Rx for Energy Vampire. They are closely related.

The identity thiefIt was your project, your effort and your utterly stellar success. You would never know that to listen to the Identify thief, however. You only played a minor role in his shining moment of glory. What were you thinking?

Rx: The identify thief can be highly destructive to your career, particularly if he has placed a target on your back. You must not let his false ramblings continue, however. To put a stop to his lies, you’ll have to call him out in front of others. In short, make him feel like a bug under a microscope. If necessary, get down in the weeds using details he would not be aware of just to highlight his ignorance. Do this tactfully of course. You don’t want it backfire and make you look like a child who doesn’t want to share his toys.

Janet Farley is the author of “The Military-to-Civilian Career Transition Guide” and “The Military Spouse’s Complete Guide to Career Success.” Her column appears monthly in Stars and Stripes. She can be contacted at:

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