Let’s face it, not everyone you work with is going to be your cup of tea. The same may be true about you. Regardless, there are three things that you can start doing today to combat toxic employees that you work with.
The first thing is to start with yourself. Do a self-scan, right? Ask yourself if you’re behaving in ways that other people might label as toxic. And then just like the oxygen mask that falls down on the airplane, take care of yourself before you start addressing the needs of those around you. Also ask yourself, what is it about them that leads you to label them as toxic?
How much of that is truly about them and their behavior? And how much of that is about you and just your perception of them and the fact that they just whatever, for whatever reason, they’re not your cup of tea. And then ask yourself, is their behavior a reaction to what you’ve done or maybe what you haven’t done? Especially, for example, if they’re a direct report of yours, have you set clear goals and expectations? Are you providing ongoing feedback to help them course correct or providing praise to encourage them to keep going?
That leads us to the second thing that you can do to combat toxicity in the workplace. Stay current with people. Provide feedback as much in the moment as possible, respectful of their privacy, and certainly not wanting to embarrass them. And then once you start be consistent with your feedback, even if you’re frustrated and you feel like it’s falling on deaf ears, really keep at it. Otherwise, silence is compliance, and you’re essentially telling them that what they’re doing is absolutely fine. And then, to encourage the other person to be open to feedback, model it yourself. Ask them for some feedback, right? Even if it’s hard to hear. Lean in, get curious.
Look for something in there that you can perhaps use and incorporate into your behavior. Ultimately be appreciative. Say thank you. Show them that you’re open and you are a work in progress as well. And that you can change. The third thing you can do is confront their behavior with them. For us, it’s a deeper conversation. You just take some preparation. Part of the preparation for you as you get ready to have that conversation is to shift your context. Many of us go into these confrontation conversations with the mindset of a conqueror. This is why you’re wrong. This is what you’re doing. This is bad, and you should stop, you need to change. I’m even using this as if it were bad.
We encourage people in our confrontation model to adopt an explorer’s mindset. Really get curious, start the conversation you’re prepared for, but let the other person know what their behavior looks like from your perspective, right? And within that, let them know what you may have done or what you may not have done that has contributed to their behavior. After all, if you want them to be accountable, you should start with yourself and model some accountability and then get curious with them.
Ask them what their behavior looks like from their perspective. Really listen. By the end of their time, they should feel really heard and understood. It doesn’t mean you completely buy into their perspective, but you’ve heard them and you understand what their perspective looks like. At that point, it’s time to work together and collaborate with them to chart a path forward, to recognize we can’t stay here, we can’t go backward. What’s it going to take for both of us to move forward? What have we both learned and what are we both prepared to do to get to a better place together and commit to that?
Get some commitments from them and commit to what you’re going to do and check in with each other along the way. This isn’t going to change overnight. And you might even want to set some milestones, some things that you can celebrate along the way towards this path of this ideal future state that you’ve set with each other. So those are the three things that you can start doing today. First, start with yourself. Provide feedback in the moment for deeper conversations. Confront their behavior with them, shoulder to shoulder with your explorer’s mindset. And then also know in the end.
The other thing that’s also true for you, that’s within your control is that instead of falling victim to the toxicity that exists and you’ve tried everything you feel like you can to help them to see a better path, one thing you can do is to step away. We can all choose to do that for ourselves. That may mean that you are moving into a new role or a new department or even a new organization, or if they’re on your team and they may need to find a new role, it’s a better fit for them. And so to help them down that path to a better state, that’s also within your control.
All right, we wish you well. And if there’s anything that we can do to help you and support you as you combat toxicity in the workplace, absolutely reach out at any time