5 Kinds Of Toxic Employees That You Should Watch Out For At Work
It only takes one toxic employee to turn a healthy workplace into one that everyone dreads. Not only are toxic employees a barrier to a successful and inclusive workplace, but they create heightened anxiety and stress while hindering productivity, and deflating morale. Michelle K. Duffy, professor at the Carlson School of Management at the University of Minnesota, shared in an interview with the American Society of Employers (ASE) that “toxic employees can affect each organization differently. But, in general, they have the ability to destroy the social fabric of the organization by creating friction, drama, tension, and hostility among other employees.”
Here are the five kinds of toxic people you should watch out for at work.
The Passive-Aggressive Personality
Working with a passive-aggressive colleague isn’t easy. People who exhibit passive-aggressiveness do so because they lack the ability to communicate and convey their feelings in a constructive manner. This is because they’re scared of healthy conflict or having difficult conversations. Bram Jansen, Chief Editor at vpnAlert, explained, “passive-aggressive individuals believe they’re unable to communicate directly, so they drop hints, and make comments and vague suggestions with the expectation that someone will pick it up and take action. When their wants are not met, they become progressively snarky or critical, leaving you to question what you did wrong or if you’ve gone insane.”
A passive-aggressive person will never outright confront you but instead, they’ll show you in other ways. Yet, when they’re confronted, they’ll act as if everything is fine and make you feel as if you’re overreacting, they don’t know what you’re talking about, or you’re misinterpreting things. Elizabeth Sandler, SHRM-SCP, Workplace Investigator at Juliette Works, said, passive-aggressive behavior is a game about manipulation and control that takes different forms but the objective is the same.
Some examples of passive-aggressiveness are
- Backhanded compliments
- Silent treatment
- Snide and sarcastic comments
- Saying one thing and meaning another
- Talking over you in meetings
- Pretending they don’t hear you when you try to talk to them
If you stand up to a passive-aggressive person or don’t agree with them on something, they’ll find a way to put you down as a form of subtle retaliation. I’ve worked for a boss who would make backhanded comments about my sobriety or my wardrobe anytime I didn’t agree with her. Unfortunately, they weren’t one-off comments. Her attacks would last up to a week or longer. This was her way of putting me in my place, but it did more than that as I always felt on edge, and lost confidence in how I presented myself.
One of the most difficult personalities to work with is the narcissist. Not only do they lack empathy and self-awareness, but they’ll steamroll, gaslight and manipulate others without a second thought in order to get what they want. Rahul Vij, CEO of WebSpero Solutions, described narcissists as “people who feel they’re superior to everyone in knowledge, expertise, skills and capabilities.” He said, “they want praise for everything they do and think their role and efforts are the most important in the organization.”
Some behaviors of a narcissist are
- Shutting down others’ opinions, feedback or ideas
- Believing policies, rules, boundaries and processes don’t pertain to them
- Never taking accountability or responsibility
- Blaming others
- Pitting people against each other
Narcissists often label themselves as “humble” but really they’re egomaniacs who believe they’re better than everyone else and can do no wrong. Despite their oversized ego, narcissists are one of the biggest barriers that prevent a team from achieving its fullest potential.
The Professional Underminer
The undermining colleague is often seen as overly competitive, however, they’re saboteurs. They’ll pretend to be your best friend but will deliberately undermine you because they want to see you fail. The mission of the professional underminer is to outdo you, outshine you, and prove that they’re better than you. It’s impossible to work with these individuals as they always have an ulterior motive to bring others down in an effort to promote themselves.
Professional underminers do this by
- Sabotaging your success
- Taking credit for your work
- Always comparing themselves to you
- Criticizing others’ work and character
- Needing to always have the spotlight or redirect it back to them if it’s on someone else
- Steamrolling others by speaking over them or not allowing them to speak
- Trying to derail your productivity to delay your contributions
- “Forgetting” to invite you to collaborative meetings or brainstorming sessions
- Spreading rumors in an attempt to harm your reputation to prevent a possible promotion or opportunities
Juan Dominguez, CEO of The Dominguez Firm, expressed, “these are one of the worst people you can deal with in the workplace as they seek to elevate their status by putting their coworkers down. Instead of focusing on developing their own strengths and becoming indispensable, they pounce on every opportunity to call out the mistakes or shortcomings of others, whether real or perceived.”
Every workplace has at least one bully. Bullies thrive on exploiting your insecurities and making you feel bad about yourself by way of insults, exclusion and humiliation. Their bullying behavior is typically rooted in their own jealousy and insecurities. For this reason, their goal is to turn others against the coworker that makes them feel insecure.
Some ways bullies do this is by:
- Belittling or insulting you
- Excluding you from meetings, events and social outings
- Spreading gossip and misinformation
- Yelling and screaming
- Sabotaging your work or ability to contribute to a project by withholding or intentionally giving you the wrong information
- Setting you up to fail with impossible deadlines or an unrealistic workload
- Giving you the silent treatment
- Making nasty comments to or about you
Unfortunately, bullies have likely mastered getting on leadership and management’s good side and creating a perception of being invaluable. This way, when complaints are made against them, leadership and management question their validity. As such, they never face consequences for their bad behavior.
The Chronic Complainer
Despite how great your experience is at your workplace, if you spend too much time around a complainer, you’ll begin to focus only on the negatives. Chronic complainers are not open to solutions as they only want a sounding board or someone to share in their misery. No matter what, this person will never be happy or satisfied. Linda Chavez, founder and CEO of Seniors Life Insurance Finder, said, a chronic complainer “will constantly complain about the workplace, the people they work with, and everything else. Try to avoid this person as much as possible, as they will only bring down the mood of the workplace.” Likewise, their negativity can drive you out of a job you love.
Despite how great your experience is at your workplace, if you spend too much time around a complainer, you’ll being to focus only on the negatives. Negativity is contagious and can spread to all areas of your life. The reality is, persistent complainers are not open to solutions as they only want a sounding board or someone to share in their misery. They’re motivated by drama and things to complain about.
No matter what, this person will never be happy or satisfied. Chavez said, a persistent complainer “will constantly complain about the workplace, the people they work with, and everything else. Try to avoid this person as much as possible, as they will only bring down the mood of the workplace.” Their negativity can drive you out of a job you love.