Creating the antidote for the poison
Leadership is about people. The challenge with this is that there are some people who are very difficult, though they themselves may not even realise it. Of course, being difficult is relative to the person interpreting the behaviours.
The issue however is that these kinds of people can be very toxic to teams and companies. It seems as if their sole purpose is about sabotaging the positive outlook of others and consistently looking for reasons to complain. They go out of their way to remind everyone of the negatives or, they themselves, create negatives in order to justify their complaining.
Despite initiatives to bring them into the team, or good intentions to assist them and hear their concerns, they will consistently look for reasons to hijack change. One of the tools that they will use is to blame everyone and everything for their misery. They will not take responsibility for the way their choices perpetuate and exacerbate the situation, as it is never their fault!
A poisonous attitude
Venomous employees love misery. They thrive on it! The question is how to deal with it? There are a number of suggestions that all point to dealing directly with the employee and trying to manage his or her behaviours. Changing their attitude however is an entirely different matter.
In order for the poison to work, there has to be a victim – someone who is prepared to listen to and sympathise – an enabler who absorbs the poison. To stop the behaviour of the toxic employee, the dynamics of the relationship has to broken or changed.
Producing the antidote
The enabler(s) needs to realise how their responses to the toxic employee empowers the dysfunctional pattern. For example, the toxic employee expects the enabler to listen, agree with and sympathise with his or her point of view/gossip.
- Break the pattern – respond differently to the expectation and create an antidote for the poison. This will throw the toxic employee, as he or she will be uncertain of how to react.
- Don’t entertain the behavior. Acceptance here is key. The toxic employee can only persist with this kind of destructive repetition when the enabler(s) accepts the response.
By accepting the behaviour, the enabler allows the poison to do the most damage, as it gives the toxic employee permission to continue. In the same breath, it harms the victim as her or she will internalize the negativity, which can cloud their vision and dampen their spirits.
- Give the responsibility for the toxicity back to the venomous employee. Communicate openly with them that their responses are destructive, not just to the team and company, but also to themselves. Question them directly on the benefit that they are getting from their behaviour. No person acts without some form of benefit to him or herself.
- Work on understanding the real cause of their toxicity. Bad management and poor decisions bring out the toxicity but they are not its cause. This poison can be far deeper within the toxic individual as he or she chooses to see the negative in everything. The question is why? You need to dig to find out what is really going on.
Producing the antidote from the poison
The antidote to many a poison is derived directly from the poison itself. With this in mind, toxic employees have the potential to make, not only remarkable employees but potentially, incredible leaders.
The only difference is that their passion is misdirected. When leadership recognises that this potential is untapped and nurtures it in the right direction, the results can be surprising.
Bruniquel & Associates (Pty) Ltd
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