10 Toxic Traits to be Aware of in the Workplace
June 25, 2023
By Heather Nezich, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner ASE
Do you work with employees who consistently exhibit negativity, criticism, and lack of support? Perhaps you have encountered a coworker who is unaware of the ways in which their actions affect you, or someone who frequently tells lies. If any of these situations resonate with you, it is likely that you have encountered toxic traits. It is crucial to be aware of the following ten toxic personality traits and remain vigilant in identifying them.
- Passive aggression: Passive-aggressive behavior involves expressing anger or frustration indirectly rather than openly communicating. For instance, a passive-aggressive coworker may make sneaky comments about your work instead of directly addressing any concerns. Passive aggression often signifies a strained relationship or an inability to express emotions properly.
- Conflict avoidance: Conflict avoidance entails going to great lengths to evade any form of confrontation. Individuals exhibiting this trait will do anything to maintain peace, even if it means sacrificing their own needs or beliefs. If you tend to avoid conflict, it is important to assess whether your fear outweighs your happiness and consider taking action when necessary.
- Constant negativity: Individuals who consistently display negativity, criticism, and lack of support can dampen the mood in any setting. They frequently engage in complaining, especially about matters beyond their control, and dismiss others’ ideas without providing constructive feedback. Working with such individuals can be challenging, as they may be set in their ways or unaware of their negativity.
- Toxic positivity: Toxic positivity can be equally oppressive and harmful as negativity. While fostering positivity in the workplace is beneficial, striking a balance is essential to ensure that team members feel psychologically safe enough to express genuine concerns. If you observe managers or colleagues dismissing legitimate concerns with phrases like “stay positive and you’ll feel better,” it is important to address the issue.
- Self-centeredness and arrogance: Arrogant individuals hold themselves in high regard, believing they are superior to others in both ability and worth. They may lack empathy and prioritize their own needs above all else. Managing such individuals can be challenging, as they may resist feedback or direction and insist on doing things their own way.
- Lying and manipulation: While occasional lies are common, individuals who consistently lie to the detriment of those around them can be classified as compulsive or pathological liars. When encountering someone who frequently lies, addressing their behavior requires a sensitive approach, which may involve open and honest communication to establish mutual understanding.
- Destructive criticism: Destructive criticism involves making negative comments about someone else with the intention of causing harm. These comments can be personal attacks or undermine the recipient’s work. While such criticism may masquerade as helpful feedback, its underlying purpose is to belittle the recipient and establish the critic’s superiority. If you find yourself on the receiving end of destructive criticism, it is advisable to distance yourself emotionally and mentally from the situation and refuse to engage with such negativity.
- Gaslighting: Gaslighting refers to a psychological manipulation tactic in which the gaslighter attempts to make the victim doubt their own memory or perception of events. This tactic aims to assert the gaslighter’s version of reality over the victim’s. Signs of gaslighting may include being excluded from important meetings concerning oneself or being falsely accused of mistakes. Recognizing gaslighting requires emotional awareness, and seeking the input of an unbiased third party may be necessary.
- Abusive or controlling behavior: Abusive or controlling behavior can manifest in various ways, such as threats, physical violence, emotional manipulation, or psychological aggression. These behaviors indicate that the person exhibiting them is emotionally distressed and seeks to exert control and dominance over others. Promptly informing management about the situation is essential. Managers should immediately address this behavior.
- Incivility: Incivility encompasses a range of behaviors typically considered rude, including making insulting or demeaning comments, joking at someone’s expense, being distracting or inappropriate, and displaying rudeness. Incivility can escalate to unwanted physical contact, aggression, and threatening behavior. Addressing incivility early on is crucial to prevent further negative consequences.
Dealing with a toxic coworker or boss can be a challenging situation. It can be emotionally draining and frustrating, but there are effective strategies to navigate such circumstances:
- Seek to understand: Try to gain insight into why the person is behaving in a toxic manner. They may be going through personal challenges or experiencing stress that is affecting their behavior. Practicing empathy and considering their perspective can help you approach the situation with more understanding.
- Open and honest communication: When appropriate and feasible, attempt to have a direct and honest conversation with the toxic individual. Express your concerns calmly and respectfully and try to establish open lines of communication. This may provide an opportunity to address the issues and foster a more constructive relationship.
- Set personal boundaries: It’s important to establish and communicate your boundaries with the toxic person. If they frequently overstep boundaries or interrupt your work, assertively and calmly let them know what behavior is acceptable and what is not. Maintaining clear boundaries can help protect your well-being and create a healthier work environment.
- Limit interactions: If possible, minimize your interactions with the toxic individual. If they are a colleague you don’t need to work closely with, consider rearranging seating arrangements or requesting a transfer to a different department. While it may not always be feasible, reducing exposure to their toxic behavior can provide some relief.
- Don’t take it personally: Remember that the toxic person’s behavior is a reflection of themselves, not of your worth or abilities. Try not to internalize their negativity or let it affect your self-esteem. Maintaining a sense of dignity and emotional resilience in challenging encounters can help you navigate the situation more effectively.
- Consider your options: Your mental health and overall happiness should not be compromised for the sake of a job. Discussing the situation with a trusted mentor or advisor can provide guidance on when it may be appropriate to consider leaving the job. If you are happy in your job otherwise, address your concerns with management first. This is often how organizations lose good employees.
Each situation is unique, and these strategies may not work in every case. It’s essential to prioritize your own well-being and seek support from trusted colleagues, friends, or professionals if needed.
Source: Fingerprint for Success