Avoiding Toxic Conversations at Work

Some types of conversations are distractions from the big goals we are all trying to achieve together at work. Spreading rumors or telling stories that paint people in a bad light is especially destructive. The same goes for discussing the sensitive personal problems of other people and telling jokes that encourage others to laugh at someone instead of with someone. 

These types of toxic conversations are especially damaging to a team. Spreading negativity about other people doesn’t help anyone meet their goals. Instead, it just makes work an unpleasant place for people to be, especially people who are looking to achieve something in their lives. 

Here is how to avoid negative conversations that create toxic work environments: 

  • Start the Right Kind of Conversation: When you are at work, make sure the topic of your discussion is going to be helpful for everyone on your team. Don’t start a conversation or make a joke that puts another person on your team down.
  • Avoid Participating in Negative Talk: If other people are having a conversation that is dragging other individuals down, don’t join in on the conversation. 
  • Reroute Negative Conversations: If a conversation starts to become mean-spirited or gossipy, try to redirect the conversation to a better topic. Be a good influence on your peers and elevate the discussion to a more positive, healthy topic. 
  • Save Negative Talk for a Safe Space: If you need to vent about a person or a situation at work, consider writing down your feelings in a notebook. Also, consider venting to a friend who isn’t part of your work team to get an outside perspective. These practices will help you to blow off steam without creating a toxic atmosphere at work. 
  • Remember, Teams Lift People Up: Remember, teamwork is all about working together to achieve something big. It takes our actions, as well as our words, to help us become a stronger team made of strong individuals. 


  1. Have you ever had someone talk behind your back? How did that make you feel, and do you wish that person had treated you differently? 
  2. What kinds of conversations can make a work environment feel toxic? 
  3. What kind of conversations make a workplace feel empowering?