It’s normal to have people at work that you do not like. It is also normal to spin out over your distaste for these coworkers in negative ways. Yet, the question becomes, what can we do that is more pro-social and more functional for both our emotional health and our own professionalism?
The first step to answering this question is the skill of discerning the difference between a coworker that is beyond “unlikeable” and instead is “toxic.” Below are 3 types of toxic coworkers you need to watch out for.
1. The Gossip.
If you find yourself listening to a coworker talking negatively about another coworker then point-blank you are listening to gossip. This happens in both functional companies yet more often is a prime characteristic of a dysfunctional one. Rise above the occasion with regular gossipers and do not participate. Truth? The growth of gossip is insidious. And, trust us, you will not want your name attached to such talk when your name is on the promotion desk. Coworkers that you can “count on” to get the negative scoop are gossiping coworkers. And relationships with them will never end well. Why? Because your name is next on their list – even if you believe that you are their very good confidant.
2. The Victim.
If you find yourself listening to a coworker regularly complaining about the ‘state of affairs’ as well as regularly lamenting that they are powerless to fix the situation, then you are dealing with someone who may enjoy playing the victim card. They enjoy having your attention, your empathy, and your time. Victims can suck the life out of inspired, motivated, engaged employees and are to be avoided. Trust us – they will take you down with them 9 times out of 10 – and you do not want to kill a good opportunity by being invested with a victim. You might ask yourself why you are spending time with this person in the first place? If you like the camaraderie that comes from complaining, perhaps it is time to explore comradery that comes from real success.
3. The Narcissist.
Most ambitious people have a dab of narcissism in their souls. Sometimes that narcissism can ‘act up.’ Sometimes this can ‘act up’ so much that we worry we are dealing with a true and clinical narcissist. And a true and clinical narcissist is concerning. Clinical narcissists gaslight their teams. They go to great lengths to make sure people see the world through their unique, self-centered lens. They will be your best friend one day, and then the next, they might not even acknowledge your existence. They lack empathy and are aware that they do, yet they do not care. They will testify that they are, indeed, the smartest people in the room and that their ideas are the best. Often, we find narcissists at the head of the organizational hierarchy. Those who work for, and who work with, narcissists need some training on how to stand their ground, listen to their own intuition, and not be blindsided or hurt by narcissistic actions.
Once you have identified a coworker as not just ‘dislikeable’ yet ‘toxic,’ the question changes from ‘what do I do with this person I do not like?’ to ‘what do I do with a team member who is toxic?’ These are very different questions. Stay tuned to this blog series to learn more.
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Lion Leadership is a company of coaches, consultants, speakers, and facilitators dedicated to creating strong leaders and ambitiously self-sustaining companies through best-in-class coaching, management training, process optimization, and retreat facilitation so that businesses and leaders can be ready for what’s next.
Natasha Ganem, Ph.D., is founder and principal consultant.
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