Ask Roxy: 'I have a toxic coworker, who's now making comments about people's appearances.'

Ask Roxy is a series that answers women’s burning workplace questions, from how to deal with a toxic co-worker to how to ask for a pay rise.

Roxy Jacenko is the founder and director of Sweaty Betty PR, The Ministry of Talent, Social Union, 18 Communications, Pixie’s Bows and Roxy Jacenko Accessories, and is known for being straight-talking, tenacious and relentless in her commitment to keeping her clients and customers happy. 

Here, 28-year-old Mel, who works in Sales, has a question for Roxy. 

I have a co-worker who I can’t stand.

She’s incredibly negative – always whinging about her life, as well as our workplace, and she sucks all the energy out of me. I’m not sure how to act around her, because I don’t want other people putting me in the same category. She’s started rumours about people and tears down other people’s work. Recently, she’s started making comments about people’s appearances – saying they’re ugly, or not looking after themselves. She’s also lazy in her role, but because we’re on the same level, I don’t feel like it’s my place to say anything.

It’s having a direct impact on my well being at work, because I come in anxious that she’s been talking about me behind my back, too. I also end up picking up the slack of her workload, and don’t get a lot of credit for doing so. 

Our manager doesn’t seem to notice it, or she’s just chosen to ignore it. How do I stop the negative conversations from happening, and also get management to take notice of what a toxic person she is?

Haven’t we all experienced this at some point? It’s a frustrating yet all too common occurrence in the workplace. I personally can’t tolerate this on any level – it’s an absolute drain and not to mention bore! If this was happening in my office, I’d be putting a stop to it quick smart. After all, it only takes one rotten apple to spoil the whole cart.

The workplace can pose countless issues. Here, psychologist David Gillespie explains what to do if you suspect your boss might be a psychopath. Post continues after video. 


Firstly, don’t engage in her negativity. Not at all. If she starts whinging about life, work, whatever it may be, don’t ask questions or invite further conversation about whatever it is she’s talking about. Change the topic to something positive and work-related or, if you can, tell her that you’re in the middle of something. Then ask if her problem is pressing or whether it can wait.

Hopefully, that snaps some sense into her and she’ll realise that these types of conversations are off-limits with you. Set some boundaries and don’t be afraid to enforce them!

As for people putting you in the same category as her, they won’t if you don’t engage with her behaviour. Especially her rumours, petty comments about people’s appearance or work.

It sounds as if she’s not one to comment at all given her laziness! Just keep your head down, remain pleasant and focus on doing your work to a level that’s above and beyond expectation. Aim to rise above it and let your work do the talking.

Listen to the Mamamia Out Loud hosts discuss the woman who works 22 hours a day. Or, she claims to. Post continues after audio.

I don’t believe that your manager hasn’t noticed it, she may be ignoring it or she may be taking action without your knowledge. This kind of behaviour is usually pretty obvious to all that encounter the perpetrators. If you think she’s ignoring it, perhaps it would be worthwhile to schedule a short, private meeting with your manager to express your concerns, and how it’s negatively impacting your work with her draining interruptions. But be careful with how you phrase it.

You don’t want to end up sounding like a whinger yourself!

Doors are now open to Roxy’s Brand Bootcamp, the ultimate online course to help you build a powerful brand. To find out more and sign up, click here. But hurry, doors close on Sunday 8th March.