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What If You Are the Toxic Person at Work?
Being toxic is like body odor. We are oblivious to the discomfort we create for others. A colleague described a healthcare Vice President that is a bully as well as a Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde personality. The first question is obvious. Who promotes these people? The offending executive must be like a blind umpire calling balls and strikes behind the plate. My popular YouTube video, Is Your Boss an Idiot? Five clues to know for sure helps clarify idiocy in a boss. However, it does not share insight into what makes someone toxic in the workplace. Being an idiot and being toxic may overlap, yet they are not the same. Human toxicity is more common than you might think. I poll audiences regularly, and it seems most people know at least one toxic person at work. More specifically, if you do not know anyone toxic at work, you might be the one!
I compare toxic people to tumors in the workplace. There are benign tumors that cause pain and discomfort for other people. Also, worse, there are malignant tumors that will kill your organization. Benign tumors are mostly Negative Nancy’s (my apologies to positive Nancy’s everywhere). They complain about the work, the people, and the organization. Most of us attempt to ignore them. Malignant tumors are usually in positions of power and have a wide span of influence in the organization. Others can identify malignant tumors:
How does someone self-diagnose toxicity? If you honestly answer yes to five (5) or more of the following questions, it is time to get a coach and ask for help.
Bonus: If you think yes should be the answer to the questions above, you are indeed the problem.
These questions help you honestly see yourself as others may see you at work. I hesitate to use always and never; however, the focus for negative people is on themselves. How do I see myself in a situation? This intrinsic perspective prevents us from social queues that demonstrate caring and compassion for others. We miss micro expressions that solicit expected responses. We slowly become labeled as uncaring or insensitive by others.
A good coach is your chemotherapy and will help you understand the why behind your toxicity. It takes practice to work on relationships and your conditioned response to situations. Think of your awareness as a first step toward recovery. Becoming less toxic is like a dial, not a switch.