Maintain a Healthy Distance from Unhealthy People

February 13, 2015

healthy distance unhealthy people

There are a number of challenging or negative personalities that many of us must manage at the workplace.  Unfortunately, since we have little choice as to whom we work with, and can be deeply affected by them, it is wise to keep unhealthy people and situations at a healthy distance. As an analogy, I often tell my clients that they might cherish and respect the beauty and power of a lion, but would they voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way to pet or even feed a lion, whether it be caged or in a natural environment?  Maintaining a healthy distance from someone or thing that negatively impacts you is a way to empower you to manage a somewhat mentally and emotionally toxic situation.

If you find yourself working in close or even distant quarters with an “unhealthy” personality–one who may bully, intimidate, or resort to negative feedback–which is likely to compromise productivity, one’s health, or work-ethic, consider the following:

  1. Acknowledge that you are unable to control anyone other than yourself.
  2. Discipline and control your own internal reactions and behaviors. Avoid blame or discussion of the negative interaction with others unless it is resolution-based to help keep your own negative, inflammatory, or unresolved emotions in-check.
  3. Consider how often you allow the entanglement, instead of setting healthy boundaries around it. Internal boundaries and the resolve to stick with them are necessary to healthy interactions.
  4. If possible, limit conversations to clear, but brief and concise, emails. Limit direct interaction as negative energy is contagious. Stick to the agenda at hand, present facts, and maintain a positive, if not neutral, attitude.
  5. Ask yourself how much control unhealthy people have over your self-worth or value and why? Recognize issues related to your own self-worth and beliefs, and work on re-building your confidence.
  6. Take the higher ground, especially if it is your boss or a higher up. If you are being criticized or bullied, keep a paper trail, and set up a meeting with your human resources department.
  7. Find healthy ways to productively release negative energy from your mind and body. Establish an exercise routine, meditate, or work in support groups to help you center and maintain focus.
  8. If you have tried everything possible to maintain a healthy distance from the unhealthy people or situations, but still find that your work environment is taking a toll on you, consider if there is another work environment that is better suited for your personality.

We all must work with people we’d choose not to be with, but if these patterns become abusive or detrimental to your health, then it is your responsibility to take control over your own happiness and well being.

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About The Author

Former New York City Litigator, now 'The Recovering Attorney', Karen Nourizadeh, has embarked on a path of healing and health, after spending more than a decade practicing law and working at companies that topped the Fortune 50 list. It is through high stress and a lack of inner fulfillment that Karen discovered the healing philosophy and tools of yoga and meditation, propelling her to her true calling, as a health, wellness and stress management expert. Working with large health and media corporations, hedge funds, and people with active, high-stress lifestyles for the last 6 years, Karen is now creating a Corporate Wellness Program for the acclaimed Pure Yoga in Manhattan. Karen's wellness blogs have appeared in Mind, Body, Green and Elephant Journal, and her teachings have been featured in Fitness Magazine, Harper's Bazaar, The New York Daily News, and others. Cited for her expert guidance in stress management, Karen's chapter advising parents of children with autism on how to manage stress more effectively was published in 2014, in Cutting Edge Therapies for Autism. Credentialed with an advanced yoga and meditation certification, E-RYT 500, Karen also traveled to India, to further her Eastern studies.


  1. avatar

    this a great article to live by in life and in the work place. Fortunately where I work seasonally my associates are a positive and friendly group, otherwise I would’nt continue to work. I am sure this article will cause many people to look at themselves and try to make changes in their workplace .

  2. avatar

    Great advice. To me, it’s all about one’s attitude. Pretty much most jobs these days seem to be stressful and full of annoying situations and difficult co-workers. Sure, sometimes we all need to vent a little. But no matter what’s happening, it’s good to remind oneself that at bottom it’s our attitude that counts. So don’t let the negative people influence you. Negativity is contagious. If a situation is really bad, it’s up to us to do something about it, or accept the situation and move on. Years ago, a friend got let go from his job, but he retained his good humor, even staying in touch with his former company. Sure enough, they asked him to come back six months later, realizing they needed his skills, and he was even able to negotiate a raise. Conversely, I know someone else who got let go during a downturn and lashed out at her boss. When the fortunes of the company improved and her former boss was looking to fill her slot again, she did not ask this employee back.

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