Updated: Jan 11
All it takes is one person to spread the poison and infect other team members. Before you know it, the culture is toxic, people stop sharing ideas and then energy and motivation is down. A perfect storm.
Worse than all of this, is that leadership should have put an end to it, before the rot started to settle in.
So how can you identify a toxic worker?
They prey on quiet people; they want to quickly validate their own beliefs and views, so they will try to influence the 'weaker' members of the teams first.
This is a process that may not yield success at first, but eventually, the efforts will likely pay off. You know that group of people that gather at the same desk, or those few people who always arrive late together at meetings? These are the clicks to watch out for.
The signs are all around. Have the intelligence to sit back and observe.
This toxic person could also be disruptive, they have no personal constraint in openly challenging leadership publicly, or belittling people around them.
More behaviours to look out for include mocking people, telling offensive jokes, insensitivity to others and blatant disengagement in a team meeting; checking the mobile, clock watching and more.
When teams are exposed to such behaviours, this results in a reaction. Sometimes it will be ignored; but eventually, keep chipping away at the block and these things will start to happen:
Employees will cut back their efforts
Employees start to lose work time
Employees become infected by this bug
Employees will start to leave
This is a disaster waiting to happen, it is only a matter of time before the impact is felt far and wide; in retention rates, with productivity and of course, business results.
So, what do you do when you see it happening or hear it?
Do you pass by and think 'not my team member, not my problem' or 'it'll pass I'm too busy to deal with this' ?
Or do you think NO.
This needs to stop now.
We are one team, with one vision and if this person is not onboard with that, then this persons narrative and outlook needs to change, and I will be the one to HELP them achieve that.
You see, all too quickly, we judge this person. We believe they are bad.
They hold all the negative cards and are only happy when there is strife and conflict.
This may well be the case.
But what if something in work triggered them to be this way?
What if behind the scenes they are having a really tough life and are somehow regaining control with this behaviour in work?
What if they are being controlled by someone else, perhaps mirroring their own Manager?
We must first have the ability to look internally and to extract 'how has this happened'
Act fast, have an open conversation with that person. Be clear about what you have witnessed and furthermore, the impact that they are having on others.
In order to inspire different patterns you must be clear with what the matter is and what the impact is.
How can you lift people up and foster a culture of respect?
Everyone has a duty to be more mindful with words, to care about each other and to rise together.
Small things will make a massive difference, when practised often. I have found that thanking people, sharing credit, acknowledging others, attentively listening and smiling has the biggest impacts. Share enough of this good stuff and before long, you'll enjoy more productive, helpful, creative and respectful teams each supporting each other and growing together.
We can do better, I truly believe that together, we are stronger.
Think to yourself 'what kind of person am I going to be in this conversation'
Make a conscious decision and soon enough, these efforts will reflect on people around you.