Are you dealing with a toxic person?
04/25/17

It can be hard to recognize when you’re dealing with a toxic or damaging person at first. As a leader or in your personal life, it’s not always easy to tell when someone is draining you or your business. Here are some signs to help spot when a person is having an adverse effect.

A toxic person lacks self-awareness. While others are courteous of your time, choose their words purposefully and seem to be very thoughtful about their actions, a toxic person is completely unaware (usually) of how their words and actions are affecting the people around them. This can come from being self-centered or can be a side effect of any number of things, but whatever the case, they don’t take into account how what they’re doing may hurt or cause someone else discomfort.

To build off of their lack of self-awareness, this type of person also cannot take responsibility for their actions. Whether that’s because they don’t believe they’ve done anything wrong or because they do and don’t want to own up to it, it’s hard to tell. They’ll convince themselves that they’re innocent, or they’re the victim, and somehow it will always end up being someone else’s or some circumstance fault – not theirs. Look for someone who cannot genuinely say ‘I’m sorry’ without a bunch of excuses surrounding those two words – that’s a huge red flag.

This personality type is also dramatic and may lack the ability to see things positively. A minor inconvenience can be day stopper, and they can’t focus on anything good that’s happening around them when something is going wrong. They’re going to want to drag you down into this spiral – and you should never let them. It may not be worth your time to try and convince them that everything isn’t all terrible, either. Instead, you may just let them know that you sympathize with them and change the subject. It’s hard to change their mind, anyway.

If you’ve got a person like this in your organization – what can you do about it? It seems harsh, but once you figure it out, this person almost always has to go. Once you’ve seen these qualities in an employee, it’s incredibly hard to keep them around. I can guarantee you they are negatively affecting their colleagues and many of your valued people may be “tolerating” their toxicity.

How can you spot these people faster? Trust your other employees. There have been a couple of times in my career when I was dealing with someone who was truly bad for my company. After they were gone, I always had more than a few employees comment how negative this person was, how toxic they were, and how much better things had become since they’d left. You have to remember that this employee will be acting differently around their co-workers than they will around their supervisor; they put on a show and present only their best for someone in charge. You don’t always see exactly who they are, but your employees will. They’re your most significant asset here.

It’s not easy dealing with a toxic person. It can be exhausting, saddening and frustrating; remember that you’re doing what’s best for you, your company and the employees who genuinely care about your company – that’s never the wrong thing in the end.

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