Trolls. They’re not confined to cyberspace. Are you having issues with someone in the workplace who also fits the definition?

The word “troll” is used to describe people who sow discord on the Internet, start arguments, cause uproars, and foment general discontent. In 2014, Zelda Williams, the daughter of the late comedian Robin Williams, was driven off Twitter after receiving menacing and abusive messages from trolls. In February 2015, the Washington Post published an article by Michelle Goldberg about trolls who have caused many feminist writers to stop writing. Many other these women received threats of physical harm and were victims of constant harassment. In 2018, Star Wars actor Kelly Marie Tran was driven off Instagram.

Trolls, however, don’t confine themselves to cyberspace. If you think back through your workplace experiences, someone might come to mind who fits this description. Your contact with them might even be recent.


Here are some examples of workplace troll behaviors:

  • Running to a supervisor to complain about a co-worker and lying/exaggerating the issue, if they’re not making it up.
  • Giving a co-worker permission to do something that isn’t correct, and then denying they had given consent.
  • Taking credit for another’s work.
  • Blaming problems during a project on another person, when it was them.
  • Complaining about how hard they are working (and insinuating others aren’t) when, in actuality, they spend more time complaining than working.

I could go on, but I’m sure you can add to the list.

What motivates people to act like this? Maybe they hate themselves and/or their lives so much that when they see someone who has what they want, they feel compelled to try to tear that person apart. Maybe they’re simply mean-spirited and vindictive by nature. I’m not sure.

How do you deal with a workplace troll? (No, you can’t bring violence into the picture, except in your imagination).

  • Ignore them if they’re merely annoying and not causing any problems for you or others.
  • Deal with them with humor and kindness.
  • DOCUMENT EVERYTHING if it’s affecting your career. 
  • Confront them in a calm way (with a witness)
  • Call in a drone strike…Oops. Sorry. My imagination’s getting in the way again.
  • Tell your supervisor. And their supervisor. And all supervisors.
  • If nothing changes because your supervisors don’t do anything and your work life has become impacted by the troll’s continuing harassment, talk to an employment lawyer.


Your life and happiness are important. Don’t let a workplace troll poison it!

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