Why toxic people can never be high performersby
High performance is about more than meeting quotas or hitting goals. True high performers can consistently produce results while contributing to a healthy and collaborative work environment. Toxic individuals, on the other hand, can negatively impact colleagues and sabotage the organisation. How can we nurture high performers while recognising and addressing toxic individuals?
Recently, I’ve seen much chatter online using the term “high-performing toxic team members”.
It’s time we realised that if you’re a toxic team member, you are not a high performer, no matter how well you’re smashing your numbers.
The phrase may even perpetuate the problem by suggesting we accept that ‘performing’ and ‘being a team member’ are somehow separate and unrelated activities.
In today's competitive business landscape, high performance is naturally a coveted trait, and organisations often place a premium on individuals who consistently achieve their targets and objectives.
Team leaders and line managers are pivotal in identifying, nurturing and sustaining high performers within their teams but it’s crucial they recognise that high performance is not solely about meeting quotas or hitting goals.
True performers not toxic performers
True high performers are those who can consistently produce results while contributing to a healthy and collaborative work environment.
Toxic individuals (for want of a better expression) on the other hand, may appear to excel but their unpleasant behaviour can sabotage the long-term prospects for the organisation and negatively impact their colleagues.
I want to explore how such behaviour manifests, its long-term damaging effects, and offer strategies to address and coach individuals with toxic traits.
It’s time we realised that if you’re a toxic team member, you are not a high performer, no matter how well you’re smashing your numbers
Recognising toxic behaviour
Toxic behaviour can pop up in a variety of ways, making it essential for managers to be keen observers and communicators.
Here are some common signs of toxic behaviour that should raise red flags:
1. Lack of empathy
Toxic individuals often show a lack of empathy towards their workmates. They may dismiss others' concerns, belittle their problems or be indifferent to their needs.
This lack of compassion can lead to a hostile work environment.
2. Negative attitude
Constant negativity, cynicism and pessimism can be contagious and destroy team morale.
Toxic people may consistently criticise the company, their peers or even the work itself.
3. Manipulative behaviour
Toxic individuals often engage in manipulative tactics, such as spreading rumours, undermining colleagues or playing colleagues against each other to gain an advantage.
Toxic behaviour can pop up in a variety of ways, making it essential for managers to be keen observers and communicators
4. Undermining teamwork
They may prioritise personal success over teamwork, refusing to collaborate or share credit for successes.
This behaviour can exert a drag on projects and damage team culture.
5. Disregard for rules and values
Toxic individuals may exhibit unethical behaviour, such as cutting corners, violating company policy or engaging in deceptive practices to achieve their goals.
6. Bullying and harassment
Toxic behaviour can escalate into bullying or harassment, creating a hostile work environment that negatively impacts mental health and productivity.
Toxic individuals may exhibit unethical behaviour, such as cutting corners, violating company policy or engaging in deceptive practices to achieve their goals
The long-term damaging effects
While toxic individuals may seem like high performers in the short term, their behaviour can have severe long-term consequences for the organisation and its people.
1. Damaged morale
Toxic individuals can lower team morale and enthusiasm. Colleagues working with them may become demotivated, leading to reduced productivity and engagement.
2. Increased turnover
Toxic behaviour is a significant driver of employee turnover. Talented individuals may leave the organisation to escape the toxic environment, resulting in a loss of expertise and resources.
3. Poor team dynamics
They can poison team dynamics, hindering collaboration and innovation. This can lead to inefficient work processes and missed opportunities.
4. Legal consequences
If toxic behaviour escalates into harassment or discrimination, the organisation may face legal consequences, damage to its reputation and even costly court action.
5. Reduced organisational trust
Toxic individuals erode trust within the organisation. Employees may lose faith in leadership's ability to create a safe and supportive workplace, which can affect loyalty and commitment.
Toxic behaviour is a significant driver of employee turnover. Talented individuals may leave the organisation to escape the toxic environment, resulting in a loss of expertise and resources
Addressing toxic behaviour
To address toxic behaviour and promote a healthy work environment, you should take a proactive approach:
1. Establish clear expectations
Ensure that all employees, including high performers, understand the organisation’s code of conduct, values and expectations for behaviour.
Communicate these expectations clearly during onboarding and regularly review them.
2. Early intervention
Jump on toxic behaviour as soon as it emerges. Address it through one-on-one conversations, emphasising the importance of respectful and collaborative conduct in the workplace.
3. Encourage open communication
Foster a culture of open and honest communication where employees feel safe to report toxic behaviour without fear of retaliation. Implement anonymous reporting mechanisms if necessary.
4. Training and development
Offer training and development programmes focused on emotional intelligence, conflict resolution and communication skills.
These can help employees develop better interpersonal skills and empathy.
Jump on toxic behaviour as soon as it emerges. Address it through one-on-one conversations, emphasising the importance of respectful and collaborative conduct in the workplace
Coaching toxic individuals
Coaching toxic individuals can be a challenging task, but it is essential for their personal growth and the overall wellbeing of the organisation.
Here are some coaching strategies to help them change their behaviour:
Start by helping them become aware of their toxic behaviour. Use feedback from colleagues and provide specific examples to illustrate the impact of their actions.
2. Identify root causes
Explore the underlying reasons for their toxic behaviour. It may be rooted in personal issues, stress or insecurity. Offer outside support if needed.
3. Set clear expectations
Clearly define the expected behavioural changes and set specific, measurable goals. Regularly assess progress and provide constructive feedback.
4. Skills development
Offer coaching on essential interpersonal skills, including active listening, empathy, and conflict resolution. Role-playing, for example, can help individuals practise these skills.
Coaching toxic individuals can be a challenging task, but it is essential for their personal growth and the overall wellbeing of the organisation
5. Monitor progress
Keep a close eye on their progress and provide continuous support. Offer resources and additional training if necessary.
While ‘hitting your numbers’ in the workplace is obviously valuable, it should not come at the cost of tolerating a toxic work environment.
Toxic behaviour may yield short-term results, but its long-term consequences are detrimental to both individuals and organisations.
Middle managers and HR professionals play a vital role in recognising, addressing and coaching toxic individuals to transform their behaviour.
By promoting a culture of respect, empathy and collaboration, organisations can cultivate a genuinely high-performing workforce that thrives in the long run.
If you enjoyed this, read: Profound ways to eliminate toxicity from workplace culture
Matt helps organisations fulfil their potential in one of three ways:
• Through one to one coaching for leaders who wish to access their own potential
• Through coaching skills training for leaders who wish to release the potential of their teams
• Through change programmes for leaders who want to realise the...