We’ve all come across toxic people who have a nasty habit of making you feel inferior or manage to effortlessly sabotage your every move, when all you’re trying to do is have a positive impact on your workplace and contribute to your company’s success. Their hallmark negative trait can manifest in many ways and have severe implications for those around them. Whether they manipulate, shirk responsibility, land others in it or are generally obstructive, there’s no getting away from the fact negative people can be bad for your career – and your workplace.
Identifying negative behaviour
So how can you escape or avoid them? Or is it a case of recognising their negative behaviour and taking action to pre-empt it? Adopting both strategies is probably a shrewd move, as the former may not always be possible, especially in small teams or when you’re part of a direct-report relationship. Whether you’re a manager with the tricky task of handling the negativity, or are working under or around those who display these destructive tendencies, spotting the signs and being prepared is the best way forward.
Ideas thieves – there’s nothing like someone taking credit for your creativity. Effective team-work is all about sharing thought processes and best practice, but with ideas thieves it’s best to wait until the boss is around to put flesh on the bones.
Taking advantage – ever been asked for a small favour that ends up taking forever to complete? New starters and good-natured workers often fall prey to this kind of negative person in the workplace.
Laziness – Lazy workers often have quite sophisticated mechanisms for hiding their lack of productivity. Excuses are often blamed on others and things that they maintain are out of their control. They can be quite difficult to spot at first and are often very political so they can be the most difficult to work with in the long term
Lack of chivalry – it’s easy for weak and negative people to throw others under the bus instead of accepting some or all of the responsibility when things don’t go according to plan. Not only is this bad for morale, it also weakens the team and makes people less willing to contribute, breeding suspicion and paranoia because their trust has been betrayed.
Being unreasonable – poor communication, ineffective leadership, unfeasible deadlines, unrealistic expectations...the list goes on. Employee job satisfaction and motivation go hand in hand and will lead to reduced staff turnover, so it’s surprising more people in the workplace fail to recognise this when communicating with their colleagues.
Wrong-footing tendencies – weak or directionless management, double standards and changing the rules as you go along will put staff on edge and chip away at their confidence, making them start to doubt their own ability. In short, moving the goal posts leads to a less efficient workforce.
Always picking fault – for some people, your best is never good enough. Whether they’re your boss or your colleague, there’s not much you can do apart from to give as good as you get (which is petty, draining and potentially job-threatening) or be prepared for their onslaught by having answers and contra-evidence handy whenever you feel a character assassination coming on.
Bullying – if you’re always on the receiving end of ridicule and condescension, or feel constantly belittled, it could be more serious than a simple case of negative people affecting your workplace. Tackle it head-on and speak to your company’s HR department in confidence; if that fails then try moving departments or cut your losses and find employment elsewhere. Your health, well-being and career will thank you for it.