Toxic Handlers: Looking After Your Well-being

Toxic Handlers

Hey everyone. May was mental health awareness month and I shared two posts about mental health. At the end of the second post, I mentioned I would be back to write about Toxic Handlers. I figured now is a good time to do this and so today, I will be advocating for Mental Health.

I read a very interesting Harvard Business Review article last month. The title of the article is “The Toxic Handler: Organizational Hero-and Casualty” by Robinson and Frost. The authors really explain Toxic Handlers, the effects of long term toxic handling and also how to handle toxic handlers. I thought I could break that down and give you tips on how to emotionally support others without sacrificing yourself and your well-being.

You Can Also Read: Things to keep in mind when helping a friend with a mental health issue

In a Harvard Business Review article, Robinson and Frost define Toxic Handlers as people who “voluntarily shoulders the sadness, frustration, bitterness, and anger that are endemic to organizational life just as joy and success are.”

Many articles talk about toxic handlers in an organization or work place set up but one may be a toxic handler in friendships or other personal relationships too. Robinson and Frost went on to write,”Individuals in these roles frequently experience untenably high levels of stress and strain, which affect their physical health and career paths and often mean they have a diminished capacity to help others in the long run.”

Taking up other people’s burdens or trying to solve everyone’s issues every single time could put your health at risk. Your mental health too. Especially if you don’t actively look after your mental health or ensure that you are healthy too.

I’m not against shouldering other people’s burdens. It’s actually what I do best. I’m a toxic handler in most of my relationships. I’ve come to realise the importance of not letting what I take in build up and then end up affecting me. It’s difficult especially if you constantly carry people’s emotional pain but it’s necessary for your sake and for the sake of those talking to or venting to you.

If you are a toxic handler, like I am, here are a few tips I learnt from an article by Robinson and Schabram, When you’re the person your colleagues always vent to:

Set Boundaries

This is something I didn’t know I could do for a long time. It’s okay to say no sometimes. If you can’t help or you are not in a position to help, say that. I know that comes with feeling guilty and feeling bad about not being able to help but if you can’t help, you really can’t. It’s a hard truth.
If you can, refer them to someone else who you believe will be in a better position to help. Don’t put so much on your plate and then fall short when it’s time to help.

You Can Also Read; Mental Health: Can You Help Me With This?

Go for therapy

I keep mentioning therapy in a lot of my posts. I’m really just trying to normalize it. Especially among Africans.

In the article by Robinson and Frost, the authors go on to write, “a professional can help some toxic handlers learn how to say no.” Also, a therapist or psychologist may be able to help you sort out whatever sticky situations you may be in. I believe what you take in has to be released somehow. What better way to release all those emotions and all those burdens than to talk to a professional who will be able to help.

Take self care seriously

As you look after so many people, remember to look after yourself too. Whether it’s meditating, working out, listening to music, etc. Find something that works for you and helps you stay calm and look after yourself. You are a human being at the end of the day.

Take Breaks

“The negative repercussions of toxic handling are particularly high when the role is played for too long or when there is no letup in the stream of emotional problems to which they are exposed,” write Robinson and Frost. It is important to take breaks to recharge, practice self-care and just to not absorb any emotions or energies that may be affecting you.

You Can Also Read: Mental Health Matters

There is definitely so much more to learn from that article. You can read the full article here. I hope this helps someone out. It has definitely helped me.

Are you a toxic handler? How do you handle the stress that comes with it? Let me know in the comments below!

Thanks for reading!
Wonani Xx


  1. The Toxic Handler: Organizational Hero- and Casualty
  2. ‘Toxic handlers’: The secret struggles of the friend who’s always there for you
  3. When You’re The Person Your Colleagues Always Vent To

Hey guys! It is Day 6 of the Afrobloggers Winter Blogging Challenge! This week is all about advocating for things that matter to me and today, I went for Mental Health. Follow the blog to keep up with all the posts during this challenge.

Find all the posts for the WinterABC 2021 here! Thank you.

14 thoughts on “Toxic Handlers: Looking After Your Well-being

  1. Therapy therapy therapy!
    It’s not something common especially in the black culture but it’s necessary.

    Breaks are necessary as well. Its surprising how we overwork ourselves and forget about our well

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Soul sister definitely a toxic handler… currently learning to say No when am.not able to help and also self care has become important.

    Thanks for the insight had no idea it’s had a title we call ourselves Empaths😂😂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I am definitely a toxic handler. In fact, I could easily get the position of the grand matron of getting issues dumped on me.

    However, I do not mind as I’ve managed to separate myself from people’s issues. In the moment when they need me, I try to show up and be present. Afterwards, I take each matter to God in prayers. I have a book I write down names and issues that needs to be prayed about, and the assurance that God answers prayers sort of lifts the burden off me.

    That said, I agree with you that toxic handlers need a therapist of their own. This can never be overemphasized.

    Thanks for sharing this, Wonani. 🤗😘

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I love that!
      That is something I have to work on. Separating myself from people’s issues.

      I’m definitely picking that up from you! Thank you for sharing this. I’ll be applying that to myself lol

      Liked by 1 person

  4. This is such an informative post with so many truths. Like, Happy Panda, I didnt know such a term existed too but I have definitely felt the impact. Being a natural empath and overthinker hasn’t been helpful. I remember coming back home to tears the first time I did a community outreach on Abuse and had a lot of victims opening up. It reminds me of the saying “you can’t pour from an empty cup”. I’ve learnt that taking care of me will equip me to taker of others better.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. OMG – I didn’t know such a term existed. I am a toxic handler too! :/ I suck at setting up boundaries but I’ve been trying to do it more often now. I’ve also started letting myself take breaks whenever things get too much to handle. Great post and really useful advice!

    Liked by 2 people

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