Archive for November, 2015

Toxic People In the Workplace

November 30, 2015

I recently read an article in Forbes Leadership entitled “Ten Toxic People You Should Avoid at All Costs.” It started promisingly, describing the impact of the stress that 10 different toxic personality types can cause. While it has been proven that there are serious negative effects from interacting with manipulators, gossips, self-absorbed, arrogants etc., I believe this article misses the point.  To put it politely, every workplace has at least one jerk, and usually more.

In my thirty years of recruiting and coaching executives, I’ve observed that those who expend their energy on avoiding toxic people place themselves squarely at the effect of the destructive behaviors and attitudes they so desperately wish to avoid. They begin a potentially never-ending journey of seeking a work environment where they feel safe, comfortable and positive, and therefore more productive.  Everyone has the ability to create change in others by first changing themselves.  What we think becomes what we feel, which ultimately becomes how we behave.  The source of the power of the negative attitudes and behaviors of others is our own thoughts and feelings.  When we work harder at understanding why certain people upset us, stress us out or just make us uncomfortable, we begin to act as leaders first of ourselves, and then others.

The greatest leaders instinctively understand that getting the best out of people is not about telling them what to do.  They lead with honesty and passion, and don’t judge others.  Each of us has the potential to be a leader, simply defined as influencing others to take action.  The path to becoming a great leader begins with leading oneself, and focusing on being at the cause, as opposed to the effect of other people and situations.