How to deal with toxic people

In a perfect world, businesses would be filled with positive, happy, motivated people whose values perfectly match those of the business and their behaviour is always in line with the best interests of the business. But in reality, that simply isn’t the case. Human beings are complex and negativity can arise and manifest within any level of an organisation. Leaders and managers at all levels should make it their responsibility to keep an ear close to the ground to identify toxic people and behaviour, quickly and effectively so as to nip it in the bud, before it becomes a bigger problem. 

I have been working with a client recently who had a difficult person on their executive team and it was consuming all the energy and conversation in the exec team to the point where they were probably at less than 50% capacity. There was also the effect on the exec’s reputation in the business and their ability to get things done. The CEO was finding it very difficult to focus externally and connect with key stakeholders as so much time was taken up focused on the toxic behaviour of this one team member. Now that the person has left the organisation, it is like a weight has lifted from the CEO, the exec team and the whole organisation. In hindsight, it is clear just how toxic the situation had become. It was difficult to see the poisonous effect they had until after they were gone.

When there is a toxic person in a business, particularly at the leadership level, the people they work with become effected in a negative way. They lose sight of the bigger picture and instead focus on the toxic ripple effects ad repercussions from the toxic individual and their behaviour. When a story is told again and again about the toxic person and what they have done, the whole team or company can get stuck in a groove. 

In my recent above-mentioned experience, the leadership team and staff were both equally stuck in a groove to the point where the mere mention of the exec team, was met with eye rolls and negativity. The story of the toxic person and their effects, had been told so many times, by so many people, there was a snow-ball effect as the narrative continued and grew as each individual added their own experience to it. The more it was talked about, the deeper the groove became, the deeper the groove became, the more difficult it was to pull people out of it. 

How should we deal with toxic people? 

Leaders need to have zero tolerance for toxic behaviour.  Having a toxic person in the team can wreak havoc on staff morale and create unhealthy narratives. So how do we deal with toxic people? In a nutshell, swiftly. I recommend the band-aid approach here, the quicker you can rip it off the better. It sounds ruthless, but there is no place for toxic people in a business where you need everyone working to their full capacity. It is an unhealthy distraction at best, and at worst it can quickly spoil a thriving corporate culture resulting in demoralised and unproductive staff. Sometimes there is no choice but to begin the process of terminating the employment of the toxic person. And it is in everyone’s best interest to make this happen quickly so the negativity is eliminated and the rest of the staff can move forward without the unhelpful distraction.  

What can we do about toxic behaviour? 

As a leader you need to be highly attuned to the unhelpful narratives happening within your team. You need to be conscious of the grooves that people can get into. What are the stories you are hearing over and over again? And when they start talking about it, it’s difficult to disagree. A particular team or person is difficult or not pulling their weight for example. As a leader, you need to hear rather than dismiss these grooves, and solve them for your team in some way, shape or form before the groove deepens and they become too destructive and take up too much time and energy. 

With the ‘great resignation’ quickly approaching, there’s no better time than 2022 than to flush out toxic people and iron out any negative grooves your staff may have fallen in to. 

Could you and your leadership team do with one of my tailored workshops? I’d love to share my experience and fool-proof leadership techniques with you. Don’t hesitate. Get in touch today.

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