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JSYK: Five Signs Your Teammate is an Internet Troll

A combative coworker has one more thing to say on a topic you didn't want to talk about in the first place. By the end of the work day, you feel both frustrated, and mentally exhausted. This coworker is an internet troll come to life on the job.


With less than a month to go before the U.S. midterm elections, politics is on the brain for many people. Yes, even at work. Most of us know better than to talk about it during the work day, though.

But what if you work with someone who just can't keep their political views to themselves? When they aren't trolling anonymously on internet comment boards, they're trying to provoke their teammates into political arguments. Or any argument, really. The topic doesn't matter as long as everyone is debating and becoming visibly upset.

As a society, we're rapidly blurring the line between internet troll and in-the-flesh, in-person human being. Where does one begin, and the other one end? Some people speak as if they're always writing their next Twitter comment or Facebook status update.

In other words, they will say provocative things out loud at work that make you uncomfortable and challenge you to respond. You feel like you're sidestepping verbal minefields throughout the day.

Grandma used to say that one does not discuss politics or religion in polite conversation, but this coworker gladly wades into both at work. All the time.

Dealing With Internet Trolls At Work
But is your coworker just argumentative, or is he or she a full-fledged, in-the-flesh internet troll? It can be hard to tell sometimes, but there are things to look for, and to avoid. Here are five signs that your coworker is an internet troll in real life:

1. They raise controversial topics out of nowhere. You're discussing a work project when a coworker suddenly finds an excuse to drift wildly off topic into the politics of the day. It's as if this coworker is yelling, "Come at me, bro." Just ignore it. Back to the project...

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2. They keep debating even when you're getting upset. This coworker won't stop when you ask. "But I just have one more thing to say. Why can't you handle it?" Go ahead and walk away if you must. Just because this coworker got twenty commenters to respond to his or her latest online comment doesn't mean you have to take the bait in person, too.

3. They say things for emphasis. It's almost as if this coworker is SHOUT TALKING at you all the time, isn't it? Key words, which in their lingo includes random swear words, must be pronounced with a punch for full effect. Let's just hope no real punches are thrown around the office.

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4. They try to make you look weak. This coworker will try to label you as waffling when they can't get a rise out of you. "It's a simple answer, yes or no. I mean, if you don't have enough backbone to stand up for what you believe..." You believe this coworker is stepping over a line, because he or she is doing just that.

5. They love to say, "but what about?" to everything you say. You respond, only to have this coworker comes back with "but what about...?" It's the way this coworker keeps the argument going. The technical term for this annoyance is "whataboutism". As in, what about you get back to work and leave me alone?

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Bottom line: these combative coworkers want a response out of you, so don't give it to them. Don't feed the office trolls.

Arguing with this coworker only wastes valuable work time, and it won't change anyone's mind. The last thing you want is for this coworker to feel emboldened to escalate this boorish behavior on the job. So shut it down before it starts. And remember to vote.



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