Coping With Bullies and Toxic People: Beware of the Hoovering Coworker

Don't get sucked in

Hoovering. The art of toxic individuals sucking you back into a relationship with them, even though you have ended that relationship. Just like the vacuum cleaner, they’ll come humming around, making a lot of noise about how they’ve changed; cleaned up their act, even bearing gifts. Once they’ve sucked you back in, you end up in the dustbin, and dumped on, all over, again.

The level of hoovering is usually conditioned upon how much a toxic individual has to gain by reconciling and maintaining a relationship with you.

My primary workplace bully would only see fit to be polite and speak respectfully to me if and when management were around and he wanted to appear to be the good guy in our relationship. I would react, in kind, or rather, if he spoke respectfully to me, I would speak kindly to him. Those moments were temporary and irregular; only happening during team meetings which only happened once every two or three months. These incidents only registered a blip for being so irregular.

I wish I could say that this was the only time I was hoovered, at work. I was hoovered quite often by another coworker who would always buy me goodies or bring me things, just before she’d announce that she planned to be very late for her next shift or a day before (or after) neglecting to get her shift-work done (meaning that I would be left to do her job before I could even get started on my own already very busy schedule). By hoovering me, regularly, despite apology after apology, she attempted to either buy my silence or quell my anger. This happened so often that it was a blip that could actually be charted on a calendar on a weekly and even a quarterly basis.

Be wary of getting sucked in by your coworker’s hoovering maneuvers and tactics. They are meant to suck you back into line with their agenda, encourage you to let your guard down and lull you into a false sense of security.

You may not notice it right away, but if you notice a pattern of negative, then positive behavior, with no permanent changes in the negative behaviors, then it’s likely you are being hoovered. It’s easier for some toxic individuals to pay (bribe) you to cover for them than it is to do their own work and most are very good at knowing how to grease the wheels of others to get their own way.

You may take advantage of it, so as not to cause a stir, in the workplace, but it may end up compromising you, instead. So be cautious of coworkers bearing gifts when it’s not your birthday or some other holiday observance. If you feel uncomfortable, say “No”, to their agenda and to their gifts early and often. One of two things will happen, they will be forced to do their own work or they will find someone else to manipulate. The only way to get the hoovering to come to a halt is for you to leave or for the toxic individual to get fired.

The way to deal with a hoovering coworker is to:

1) Document, document, document. If you notice a pattern of behavior that includes you covering for your coworker and them offering you gifts after you have done so, and on a regular consistent basis (for instance, once a week on Fridays or twice a month on paydays), keep track of this pattern. Even if you don’t go to TPTB, yourself, they may come to you to see if you have noticed any curious patterns and you will be able to verify that such patterns do exist.*.

2) Just say “No”. Even if you don’t go to management about what you believe you are experiencing, you may still be able to keep yourself from being part of your toxic coworker’s agenda by simply refusing to comply with it. In turn, once you realize that they may be trying to manipulate you with gifts and favors, saying “No, thanks,” will help get you off of their radar.

3) Keep your own nose clean. Once a toxic coworker realizes that you can’t be hoovered, they will try to turn on you; blaming you for work left undone or for their own poor work ethic. Make sure you are following the rules and doing your job well, to prove that you are not the problem (*if you document their behaviors, your journal can help back you up and prove what or whom the real problem is).

*(This actually happened to me. Keeping a work journal to keep track of questionable behaviors on the job can help you keep your job longer).

Have you been hoovered on the job? How do you handle manipulative co-workers?

Other posts in the series:

How To Determine If You Are Being Scapegoated

How To Determine If You Are Being Gaslighted

Coping With Bullies and Toxic People: Gray Rock Method

Are You Being Baited?

How Do You Deal With Toxic Enablers?

Building Boundaries to Brace Against Toxic Individuals

Beware of Flying Monkeys

On this site, I will continue sharing my experiences with a toxic workplace and offer advice, based on my own practices, on how to stick it out, if you can’t leave, right away. So watch this space, as I hope to make it a permanent feature.

Feel free to send email to with questions, comments, concerns or to share your own story or to get advice.

Published by Diva

Trying to live my best life, but chores keep getting in the way!

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