No Contact or Low Contact is a coping method, much like Gray Rock, that is implemented by victims of bullies and toxic individuals, in order to help them recover from the negative effects of bullying and toxic behaviors. No or Low Contact means zero or extremely limited contact with a toxic coworker and is similar to building a wall between you and them. This means no hanging out around the office water-cooler and includes not indulging in gossip or personal information-gathering on that individual or group with other coworkers and staff members. If what your workplace bully is doing is not directly related to your work-product, it’s none of your business. Low Contact may be necessary if what the toxic coworker is up to IS directly related to how you do your job.
No contact is the last refuge for those of us recovering from the toxic behavior of others. When you finally figure out that trying to reason with a toxic coworker is pointless or when you notice that management has no intention of letting your workplace bully go, No Contact and Low Contact will enable you to hold on to your last shred of sanity while you bide your time looking for a new job.
In the workplace, this looks like you keeping your distance (actual physical distance), as often as possible, from toxic coworkers. It’s you avoiding unsanctioned staff gatherings where you know the workplace bully will be (no going out for drinks after work if your toxic coworker will be there. This could also be you leaving a gathering early, if they show up). It could look like you passing memos, instead of actually speaking to your toxic coworker, unless absolutely necessary.
It’s you shutting down any coworker’s attempts at sharing even the juiciest of gossip, about your workplace bully, even if it would give you a bit of schadenfreude. It means refusing to listen to or share any reactions to gossip that you hear about yourself. For all intents and purposes, No Contact and Low Contact is effectively limiting the existence of the toxic coworker, into your work life. It’s like pretending they don’t exist by building a wall between you and their toxic behavior. Gray Rock works in its own way, but it’s just a bandage, whereas No Contact is removing a tumor using chemo to keep it from coming back.
My own personal experience is that No Contact is an extremely effective practice. Most times, the thing that gives bullies and toxic individuals their power is your reaction to their crappy behavior. Once you decide to go No or Low Contact, you are making a pact with yourself (do not tell other coworkers you have decided to do this), that you will no longer react to or engage with your workplace bullies, effectively throwing cold water on the steamroller they try to use to run you over with. There won’t be anything in it for them, so they’ll stop because it won’t be any fun. They can’t claim to have “pw3ned ” you if you don’t even respond to their shenanigans at all.
Unfortunately, if you are at the point of No or Low Contact, then you may have no choice but to look for new employment, because No Contact is the step of last resort. If your employer does not get rid of the toxic coworker or remove the workplace bully, it keeps the toxic work environment in place and it sets a precedent that will allow for other employees (present and future) to continue in their toxic behaviors because they know that it’s unlikely that they will suffer any real consequences for their toxic behavior. I have seen, it at least one incident, where a bully coworker put his hands on another staff member and the staff member who was assaulted lost her job for “making” the bully put his hands on her! It should come as no surprise that soon after that, I became a target, but I went Gray Rock and then No Contact, as soon as I figured out what was going on. I was able to stay on a few more years, but the first chance I could, I got out of there. Despite the fact that my new job didn’t pan out, as planned, I DO NOT REGRET for one second leaving that toxic work environment. NOT. ONE. SECOND.
Remember, the rules of going No or Low Contact are:
1) Do NOT announce to your coworkers or anyone affiliated with your toxic coworker what your plans are. If the workplace bully finds out what you are doing, they may go to extremes to prevent you from implementing your plan. Just go about your business, while giving a wide berth and a deaf ear to your toxic coworker (Remember to implement Low Contact if you absolutely must communicate, but keep your exchanges short and abrupt).
2) Just say “No”. A good rule of thumb is, “what my toxic coworker thinks of me is none of my business and vice versa”. Don’t indulge in gossip or discussions that involve your bullying coworker and DO NOT ALLOW others to involve you, either. Don’t ask. Don’t tell.
3) Practice, practice, practice. Just like Gray Rock, No or Low Contact may take some time to implement, so don’t beat yourself up if you slip up by hanging out at the coffee machine around your bully or exchange gossip about your toxic coworker with the office Chatty Cathy. But, when you realize their behaviors get worse, the more you enable them, not better, you will be very motivated to remove them from your work life as often as you can. The more often you implement No or Low Contact, the easier it will be. Eventually, they will ignore you as much as you ignore them, so it will be a win-win until one of you finds another job.
Have you every gone No Contact with a toxic coworker? How do you handle Low Contact with a workplace bully?
Other posts in the series:
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 Contact@dizzydezzi.com with questions, comments, concerns or to share your own story or to get advice.