Do you have toxic personalities in your workplace? These are people who have a way of undermining inspiration, hope and motivation; the characteristics vital to a healthy successful business. Dr. Mitchell Kusy in his presentation “Toxic Personalities at Work: A Call to Action for Leaders,” defined a toxic personality as: “Individuals who demonstrate a pattern of counterproductive work behaviors that debilitate individuals, work teams, and organizations.”
If the toxic person is the owner or someone in upper management of a business, their actions can cause the culture of your business to be toxic as a whole. Or it may be a few employees who are undermining all the positive work being done by management or great employees. Keep in mind we all have “a bad day at the office” but truly toxic people seem to have bad days everyday (they occur most of the time) and their behavior has the potential to create serious damage in the workplace.
There are several actions that have been found to have the most detrimental impact on business and to the success of a company: negative attitudes, disrespectful behavior, sabotage and passive hostility.
NegativitySomeone with a negative or pessimistic attitude can have a poisonous effect on a company and take the joy out of everything. These people complain no matter the topic and always see the negative in any situation. New ideas are not good, new people are criticized, any changes are deemed impossible, too difficult or “stupid.” This attitude can have a demoralizing effect on your staff and supervising someone with a negative attitude can be difficult at best. Many pessimists believe they are being helpful in seeing the downside of decisions; they generally don’t embrace change and are rarely adaptable and often inflexible.
DisrespectDisrespectful and rude behavior isn’t in short supply in today’s work environment. These behaviors can include ignoring employees or co-workers emails, voicemails or messages of any kind, comments which may be insulting or condescending and offensive gestures (have you ever rolled your eyes at comments made by employees or management?). Dr. Jennifer A Bunk (researcher at West Chester University of Pennsylvania, who specializes in workplace incivility and is a member of the Society for Industrial and Organizational Psychology) says, “Workplace rudeness is a severe enough issue that organizations should be concerned. It is something that can affect the bottom line.” Less than favorable outcomes of workplace rudeness include lack of motivation, decreased job satisfaction, increased turnover and absenteeism, lack of commitment to the job, anxiety and depression.
SabotageIf you have team members or staff that are unwilling to share information, who practice surveillance tactics (“tattling” as my mother used to call it), doesn’t participate fully and has controlling behavior, you have a saboteur in your midst.
Passive Hostility/Passive AggressiveThis behavior is usually characterized by actively agreeing with you to your face but then not doing as agreed or as they were told, they will work to your detriment behind the scenes and are often moody and spend time gossiping. They can be territorial and may exhibit martyr like attitudes.
The most perplexing thing about toxic personalities is there are those that are completely unaware of what they are doing; however, there are also those that know exactly what they are doing, either way it must be addressed. Asking to meet with the culprit is the first step (“Nancy, I’ve got a problem and I need your help”), with the goal of getting the person to agree to change. It’s important to determine what actions you want to see stopped (actual behavior and the expected behavior), the good business reasons why it must be solved, and the consequences to be incurred if it doesn’t occur.
Once this has been addressed, action steps should be implemented. You should also indicate when the follow-up meeting (review) will occur so they are clear that there is a future for them within the company if the behavior is addressed.
Toxic behavior is not good for co-workers or the company. Keep in mind that if these actions happen within the company you can bet that they are also happening to your clients and customers.
Remember, whether you recognize yourself or others within this article, there is always hope for change. After all, you don’t want the day you left a company to be celebrated as an annual holiday, do you?