Toxic gases can poison our organism. Toxic employees can poison a whole organization. Toxic working environments can demotivate hundreds of employees. Toxic manners can destroy a company’s prosperous future. Toxic behavior is undoubtedly harmful; extinguish it before it gets disseminated.

If you have ever encountered one of below kinds of behavior, then you know exactly what “toxic” means for a working environment:

  • You say “good morning” and you receive back a murmur sounding something like “…ddday”
  • You explain the importance of the new project and people opposite you scratch their nails
  • You are passionate about a potential customer you encountered recently and they smile craftily to the person sitting beside them
  • When company results are improving, they wonder when the next catastrophe will take place
  • When a colleague delivers on top quality, they envy him for not “being one of them”
  • When the team celebrates for a successful outcome they feel embarrassed
  • When they don’t like a manager they lick her boots in front and blame her from behind
  • When things are changing they keep saying “we used to do it that way”
  • When they are given a bonus they ask for the … promotion (of course they forget to say “thank you” for the bonus)
  • When you ask them “what’s good” they tell you what’s bad; when you ask them “what’s going bad” they reply “I don’t see anything going really well here“
  • When transparency is all around they insist on rumoring that “the boss is preparing something underground” … against the employees, of course
  • They are ignorant of what “democratic centralism” means, so they never transfer and/or apply the company guidelines unless they agree (!)
  • They always have a different opinion but only communicate it in the hallway…
  • Even when you agree with them, they’re trying to find an “essential” subtle detail to prove there is a “tremendous disagreement”
  • And they complain all the time (their “chair is not comfortable”, “the food at the canteen is not healthy enough”, “the recent family event was not well organized”, “this new customer is totally insane”, “the project guidelines are wrong”, “the processes cannot adapt to real life”, “the issues are not appropriately handled” etc. etc.)

They don’t like their job but they do nothing to change.

They don’t like the company they work for, but they prefer badmouthing it all around instead of taking the risk to look for something more interesting.

They do not trust. They do not believe. They are never happy. They are never positive. They spread a totally negative “air” wherever they go (in the company, out to partners and customers, at home, at gatherings with friends). They have decided to be miserable, unsatisfied and grumpy. And they want the others to follow, too.

In this way, they slowly and deliberately diffuse their poison to everyone they encounter (for business reasons): colleagues, partners, customers. They even gossip the company to competitors. They criticize the company to family and friends. At the end, they might successfully and inexplicably influence unbelievably many people against the company.

Toxic people at work are bad for your health. They are bad both for your internal well-being and your external status. They are the most important obstacles for your dreams to come true (regardless whether you are the owner, the manager or the security clerk). Don’t try to identify them at a particular level; they may hide everywhere: from the boss (yes, even he/she can be toxic) to top managers, middle managers, employees.

Toxic people are like toxic gases: they can potentially kill and they absolutely kill any new ideas, any positive initiatives, any common efforts. They destroy the culture of the company, they disengage the other employees and they undeniably contribute a very significant negative ROI to company results. You don’t need them, however (technically) competent they are!

What do we do with toxicity in our body? We’re trying to reduce it by eating healthier (= 1. keep & hire non-toxic people), exercise regularly (= 2. check & review behaviors all the time), meditate (= 3. keep your eyes on attitudes not on short term “bright” skills), so that we get rid of toxicity.

We should do exactly the same with toxicity in our working environment. Identify toxic elements and get rid of them. Well, you might want to try to transform toxic to healthy. Good luck! I followed this approach once; it was a disaster. Simply because that’s a life attitude, it doesn’t easily change, so it depends on how much time you can afford.

I would cruelly sustain that toxic people demand fast action, no benevolence. You explain directly and clearly to them and you expect a fast response in practice. Being assertive is the first test for them. If they understand and become positive contributors, celebrate with them! If they don’t change their behavior, you let / make them go OR YOU go to a better place. After all, you have to protect your healthiness, the rest people’s welfare and the future of the organization that feeds ALL of you!

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