Coping With Bullies and Toxic People: The First Red Flags

The First Red Flags

Sometimes it’s hard to predict who may be friend or foe on the job and most times the damage has been down by the time you do figure it out. But there are a few things you can take notice of right away; red flags that may give you some clues about possible toxic individuals. These red flags may appear benign, at first, but paying careful attention and keeping yourself at arms length from new coworkers (whether they are the new employee or you are) until you see how they behave towards others, can be a means of protecting yourself from future bullying or getting wrapped up in the drama of toxic individuals. Love-bombing and mirroring may seem cute, in the early stages of any relationship, but they are red flags that signal a toxic persons true intentions.

Love-bombing is the effort a toxic individual will go through in order to ingratiate and groom a potential target using excessive flattery and extreme attempts to impress the target with gifts and favors, in order to get a target to let down their guard. Love-bombing in a workplace setting will likely feature your new coworker wanting to be your best friend, before you’ve even finished your first week. Maybe they’ll share all the juicy gossip about other coworkers or they’ll engage in some personal TMI to help you get to know them better and in hopes that you may share in kind. They’ll show up with treats for you or share the secrets to getting office freebies under the boss’ nose.

Mirroring is just like it sounds. It happens naturally, when you spend a great deal of time with an individual (like married couples often inadvertently wearing the same color at the same time). But, a toxic individual who is trying to groom you will pick up on your mannerisms and habits and begin mimicking you right away. Oh, you like chocolate mint cookies? What a coincidence! So does your new coworker. You have a routine before you sit down to work? How interesting! So does your new work-bestie. Mirroring in a workplace setting will likely feature your new coworker seeming to transform into an alternative version of yourself (think, “All About Eve” or “Single White Female”).

To the outside viewer, love-bombing and mirroring appear simply as if one coworker is getting to know another. To you, the target, the attention may feel flattering and non-threatening. But, the end result is that you let down your guard, loosen your personal boundaries, and reveal your personal weaknesses, which will be used against you when the toxic individual decides to bait you and turn you into their workplace scapegoat.

Of course, you should always be respectful and polite to all of your coworkers, but if you are unsure if your new work-bestie is truly a nice person, or a toxic person in sheep’s clothing, the following tips should help you find out for sure:

1) Loose lips sink ships. Keep your friendly poker-face and resist sharing too much personal information with your new coworker(s). Be polite. Be jovial, even. But, let them play their own hands first and see how other coworkers interact with one another, before your reveal too much of yourself.

2) Build your own network. Try to connect with as many staff members as you can, even if they are not in your direct department. The more people that you can network with, the more you will see how staff interacts with one another. If and/or when some of them begin sharing gossip, you will be able to take note of the staff members who should be trusted and who can’t be. You’ll have a better idea with whom you can let your guard down and whom you may have to be more alert around.

3) Choose your battles. After reading this post, your immediate reaction to friendly staff members may be to put up a wall. But, my intent is not to get people to be rude to one another. If your cubicle mate brings in cookies, so long as you trust his cooking, go for it. Have a cookie. But, if your new coworker suddenly invites you to their home for Thanksgiving, but you’ve/they’ve only been there for a week, you might want to respectfully decline (unless other staff will be there), to avoid seeming overly eager to make friends and to maintain a “business/pleasure balance” to keep your “job and your personal life boundary” intact.

Have you ever experienced Love-bombing or Mirroring on a new job? How do you handle new coworkers who seem to want to get too familiar on the job.?

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

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

Coping With Bullies and Toxic People: No or Low Contact


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.

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