A Toxin is a person or group who live within the walls of your organization. They suck the energy and creativity away from your co-workers and sometimes even clients. These individuals can be described as a bull in a china shop, which is not a good thing.
A Toxin loves to be in authority or leadership positions, as it allows him or her to feel as if they are in control even if it is just a department or team of two. They are harder to spot in larger organizations and can exist for years without anyone ever noticing.
In organizations that are smaller, flat structured, and more entrepreneurial minded, they will often stick out like a sore thumb. You can often tell who your Toxin is because no one wants to collaborate with them. They avoid them like a toxic plague.
Here are some ways to spot an organizational Toxin:
- Confrontational and very hard to approach. Having meetings with a Toxin leaves you feeling drained and frustrated.
- Not receptive to new ideas unless it’s their own. A Toxin will sometimes take your ideas and relabel them as their own.
- Not a team player. A Toxin will begin most sentences with the letter “I” verses “we.” A toxin also tends to always put down the team or organization instead of lifting them up
- Has a large ego. Behind closed doors a Toxin will refer to themselves as the go-to person of the organization or department. No one knows as much as they do or are as skilled, according to the Toxin. Example: I made this, I did this, I designed this.
- Can be intimidating to others. A Toxin can be arrogant and uses it as a way to intimidate their fellow coworkers. However, it is important to note that there is a big difference between being confident and being arrogant. Confident people tend to inspire others; arrogant people tend to use their presence as a way to control others.
- Often has a lack of prerequisite skills. Toxins tend to lack the required skills for their position and will blame others as a way of diverting attention away from their low skill sets.
- Disrespectful. Toxins speak in a patronizing and condescending voice to the people around them.
- Judgmental. Being judgmental is not normal and is part of a Toxin’s behavior. They tend to jump to conclusions without fully understanding the problem and will blame others when their plan falls apart.
- Victim. A Toxin always plays the victim role. It’s their way of shielding criticism. Don’t fall for it. If you feel it’s interfering with your work or assignments it’s time to speak up.
- Insecure. Toxins will continue to seek acceptance and approve from their peers. It’s hard to spot at first, but after awhile you will find yourself constantly lifting their ego and yourself drained and confused.
If any of these attributes sound familiar, you have a toxin within your organization and you need to speak up. Tell your manager. Like toxins in the air and water, they don’t just go away without proper action. They mutate and spread. You need to take charge either by yourself or as a team and let the leaders of your organization know this Toxin is killing your organization and your energy. Document. Document. Document. It’s hard to go to HR or upper management without proof. Start documenting early and keep your notes organized and somewhere you can retrieve them quickly to send.
If the Toxin is your manager, tell your managers’ manager. Don’t wait until you’re on the verge of quitting or filling out your exit interview survey to say something.