Everybody knows someone who fits the toxic image. They always say something negative. Some are seemingly unaware of their impact and others are gleefully aware of the chaos they generate.
Dr. Travis Bradberry, award winning author and co-director of TalentSmart, tells us what toxic types look like and warns us to avoid them at all costs. TalentSmart provides emotional intelligence testing and training for more than 75 percent of Fortune 500 companies.
What Toxic Types Do
I had the distinct non-pleasure of working with a toxic person some time ago. She barged into office conversations blurting out gossip and delivering sour news. It soon became a game to see how quickly we could all scatter when we saw her coming.
Bradberry says, “Truly toxic people will never be worth your time and energy, and they take a lot of each. Toxic people create unnecessary complexity, strife, and, worst of all, stress.”
I have seen offices where there were no toxics — and playfulness, loyalty and teamwork thrived. In other situations toxics lingered and fueled a climate of tension and distrust.
What Their Stress Does
Researchers from Friedrich Schiller University say exposure to even a few days of toxic stress undermines the effectiveness of neurons in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for reasoning and memory. Weeks of stress cause reversible damage to brain cells, and months of stress can permanently destroy these cells.
But It Gets Worse
Bradberry says toxics can also cut into our success if we cannot handle them.
TalentSmart research with more than a million people, found that 90 percent of top performers are skilled at managing their emotions in times of stress remaining calm and in control. Bradberry says, “One of their greatest gifts is the ability to identify toxic people and keep them at bay.”
Learn How to Spot Them
- The Gossip thrives on the misery of others. Listening to this person can be uncomfortable, often hurts people, and simply wastes your time.
- The Victim often attracts sympathy. But over time it becomes obvious this person has settled into the role. Most people bump into problems and find solutions. But the victim never takes responsibility, assuming others will help.
- The Manipulators often have silver tongues and a magic way of making you feel special. They know how to make you laugh, and what to do when you feel sad. But under that caring approach manipulators are always looking to collect whatever it is that they want.
- Self-absorbed people simply make you a mirror for their self esteem. There is never a real connection. You just need to applaud at the right time and keep smiling.
- Dominators take the front seat and make sure everything works for them. If you are really cooperative and nod at the right time you may be able to get an idea in edgewise.
- Downers can drop the room temp and sink the mood in seconds. Whatever they say or do will always be negative, often taking everyone with them.
How to Defend Yourself
Bradberry says once you spot a toxic person, you will see behavior patterns. Consider when and where you have to deal with them. Then establish boundaries and maintain emotional distance to avoid being embroiled in their strategies. Often you will notice others doing the same.
Final warning: Make sure you stand your ground. Bradberry obviously knows what works in the workplace and he is quite clear that toxicity does not.
Image used under Creative Commons Licensing courtesy of Nguyen Hung Vu