In our journey through life, we encounter a wide array of people, each with their unique qualities and characteristics. Among them, we sometimes cross paths with individuals who exude negativity, manipulation, and emotional turbulence – the so-called ‘toxic’ people. But what makes someone toxic, and how can we recognise the tell-tales traits that define their behaviour?
In this blog, we delve into the complex origins of toxicity, shedding light on the reasons some people become toxic, and providing valuable insights on identifying these traits.
Join us on this exploration of human behaviour, as we seek to better understand and navigate our encounters with toxic individuals.”
Toxicity in individuals often has complex origins that can be influenced by several factors. While it may not be a universal pattern, understanding the potential reasons why some people become toxic is crucial for grasping the complexity of their behaviour.
As for the age at which toxicity might start, it can vary widely. Some toxic traits may emerge in childhood or adolescence, while others might become prominent in adulthood due to life experiences and environmental factors. It is important to note that not everyone exposed to challenging circumstances becomes toxic; individual responses and resilience play a significant role.
Here, we will explore the origins of toxicity and why it may manifest in certain individuals:
1. Early Life Experiences: Toxic behaviour can sometimes trace its roots back to early childhood experiences. Individuals who grew up in environments characterised by neglect, abuse, or a lack of emotional support may develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, leading to toxic behaviours in later life.
2. Learned Behaviour: Toxicity can be learned. If a person has been exposed to toxic behaviour in their family or social circle, they may adopt similar patterns of interaction and communication. It is a case of perpetuating negative dynamics through social learning.
3. Psychological Factors: Certain personality traits or psychological conditions, such as narcissism or borderline personality disorder, can contribute to toxic behaviour. These individuals may struggle with empathy, self-regulation, and forming healthy relationships.
4. Insecurity and Low Self-Esteem: Some toxic individuals may suffer from deep-seated insecurities and low self-esteem. Their toxic behaviour could be a defence mechanism to protect themselves from perceived threats, often manifested as arrogance or manipulation.
5. Failed Coping Strategies: Toxic behaviours can be a result of failed coping strategies. Individuals who have faced adversity, trauma, or stressful situations might develop maladaptive coping mechanisms, such as manipulation or blaming others.
6. Environmental Factors: Toxicity can also be a response to a toxic environment. When someone constantly faces hostility, stress, or unhealthy dynamics, they may become toxic as a means of self-preservation or retaliation.
Recognising these potential origins of toxicity can offer insight into why some people exhibit toxic behaviour. It can also remind us that while we should approach toxic individuals with caution, understanding and empathy can be the first step toward helping them address the root causes of their behaviour and potentially change for the better.
Here are thirteen examples of toxity traits:
1. Gaslighting: They manipulate you into questioning your own reality and memory.
2. Selective Empathy: They only show empathy towards those who benefit them and disregard the suffering of others.
3. Constant Criticism: They criticise you and others relentlessly, causing self-esteem issues.
4. Manipulative Behaviour: They use manipulation tactics like lying, playing mind games, or emotional extortion.
5. Victim Mentality: They consistently portray themselves as victims in every situation, avoiding responsibility.
6. Intrusive: They invade your privacy and personal space without permission.
7. Insensitive to Feelings: They disregard your feelings and concerns, often dismissing them as unimportant.
8. Draining Energy: They bring negativity and drama into your life, leaving you emotionally drained.
9. Silent Treatment: They use the silent treatment to control or punish you.
10. Deflecting Blame: They shift blame onto others and refuse to acknowledge their mistakes.
11. Competitive Nature: They constantly compare themselves to you and try to outdo your achievements.
12. Passive-Aggressiveness: They make sarcastic or hurtful comments disguised as jokes.
13. Lack of Apology: They never admit when they are wrong and refuse to say sorry even when it is warranted.
Dealing with toxic people in these situations can be challenging, but here is how you can navigate them:
1. Gaslighting: Trust your instincts, maintain a journal to record events, and seek support from trusted friends or a therapist who can validate your feelings and experiences.
2. Selective Empathy: Recognise their limitations and do not expect empathy from them. Seek empathy and support from other sources, such as friends, family, or support groups.
3. Constant Criticism: Build self-esteem by acknowledging your strengths and seeking positive feedback from people who appreciate you. Set boundaries and limit your exposure to constant criticism.
4. Manipulative Behaviour: Stay aware of manipulation tactics and confront them calmly. Refuse to engage in manipulative conversations and maintain your boundaries.
5. Victim Mentality: Avoid enabling their behaviour by not rescuing them from consequences. Encourage personal responsibility but be prepared for resistance.
6. Intrusive: Politely but firmly set clear boundaries, communicate your need for personal space, and enforce these boundaries if they are violated.
7. Insensitive to Feelings: Express your feelings assertively and calmly. If they remain dismissive, consider limiting your emotional investment in the relationship.
8. Draining Energy: Prioritise self-care and be mindful of how much time and energy you invest in the relationship. Seek out positive and supportive connections to counterbalance the negativity.
9. Silent Treatment: Maintain open communication, express your concerns about the silent treatment, and let them know it is not an acceptable form of communication for you.
10. Deflecting Blame: Hold them accountable for their actions by calmly addressing the issue, providing evidence if necessary, and not accepting unwarranted blame.
11. Competitive Nature: Refocus on your own goals and accomplishments and avoid participating in their competitiveness. Encourage cooperation instead of competition.
12. Passive-Aggressiveness: Address passive-aggressive comments directly by asking for clarification or calmly expressing your feelings. Encourage open and honest communication.
13. Lack of Apology: Recognise that you may not receive apologies from them. Focus on your own healing and growth and consider setting boundaries to protect yourself from further harm.
Remember, in some cases, it may be necessary to distance yourself or even cut ties with a toxic person for your own well-being. Seek support from a therapist or counselor to help you navigate these challenging situations.
How a toxic person can hurt your business.
Having a toxic person as a partner or employee in your business can have several significant implications, including:
1. Negative Workplace Culture: Toxic individuals can create a toxic work environment, which can lead to decreased morale and job satisfaction among other employees. This can result in higher turnover and lower productivity.
2. Conflict and Disruption: Toxic individuals often create conflict within the workplace. They may engage in power struggles, undermine colleagues, or resist collaboration, leading to disruption and tension among the team.
3. Decreased Productivity: Toxic employees or partners can be a drain on productivity. They may engage in behaviours like procrastination, gossip, or sabotage, which can hinder progress and innovation.
4. Damage to Reputation: If the toxic person’s behaviour becomes known to clients, customers, or partners, it can damage the reputation of your business. Negative interactions with clients can result in lost business opportunities.
5. Legal and HR Issues: Toxic behaviour can sometimes lead to legal and human resources issues. This may include harassment claims, discrimination complaints, or hostile work environment lawsuits, which can be costly and time-consuming to address.
6. Reduced Creativity and Innovation: Toxicity stifles creativity and innovation. Employees may hesitate to share ideas, and the fear of criticism can hinder problem-solving and progress.
7. Stifled Growth and Expansion: The presence of a toxic person can hinder your business’s growth and expansion. It may deter potential investors, partners, or clients from engaging with your business.
8. Leadership Challenges: If the toxic individual holds a leadership position, they can negatively influence the entire team, making it difficult for you to lead effectively and implement your vision for the business.
9. Health and Well-Being Impact: Toxicity in the workplace can take a toll on the mental and physical health of employees. This, in turn, can lead to increased absenteeism and health-related issues, affecting the overall well-being of the team.
10. Diversion of Focus: Dealing with a toxic partner or employee can divert your focus and energy away from growing and improving your business. You may find yourself spending an inordinate amount of time managing conflicts and addressing issues.
In summary, having a toxic person as a partner or employee can have far-reaching implications for your business, affecting its culture, productivity, reputation, and overall success. It is essential to address toxic behaviour promptly, either through intervention, coaching, or, if necessary, parting ways with the toxic individual to preserve the health and well-being of your business.
1. Clear Job Descriptions and Requirements: Start by creating detailed job descriptions and requirements that clearly outline the skills, qualifications, and personality traits you are looking for. This will help attract candidates who are a better fit for your organisation.
2. Behavioural Interviews: Conduct behavioural interviews where you ask candidates about past experiences and how they handled specific situations. This can reveal their behaviour patterns and interpersonal skills.
3. Reference Checks: Contact the candidate’s previous employers and colleagues for references. Ask questions about their behaviour, teamwork, and communication skills. Be sure to verify the accuracy of the information provided by the candidate.
4. Assessment Tools: Use personality or behavioural assessment tools to evaluate candidates’ traits and tendencies. These assessments can help identify potential red flags and compatibility with your organisation’s culture.
5. Cultural Fit Assessment: Assess whether the candidate aligns with your company’s values and culture. Ask questions related to your company’s mission and vision to gauge their alignment.
6. Multiple Interviews: Conduct multiple rounds of interviews with different team members to gain a more comprehensive view of the candidate’s behaviour and personality. Different interviewers may notice different cues.
7. Trial Periods: Consider implementing a probationary or trial period for certain roles. During this time, closely monitor the candidate’s behaviour and interactions with colleagues to assess their compatibility with your team.
8. Behavioural and Ethical Questions: Include specific behavioural and ethical questions in your interviews. For example, you can ask how they manage conflicts, criticism, and stress, or inquire about their ethical decision-making.
9. Background Checks: Perform background checks to uncover any potential legal issues or inconsistencies in the candidate’s history. This can help you identify any undisclosed problems.
10. Peer Interviews: Have potential team members or colleagues conduct interviews to assess how the candidate interacts with future coworkers.
11. Consistency Across Interviews: Ensure that the information candidates provide in various interviews remains consistent. Inconsistencies could be a red flag.
12. Trust Your Gut: Trust your instincts. If something does not feel right about a candidate, investigate further, or consider other options.
13. Training and Awareness: Train your HR and hiring teams to recognise potential signs of toxic behaviour during interviews. Awareness can be a powerful tool in preventing toxic hires.
By implementing these vetting procedures, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of hiring toxic individuals and increase the chances of bringing in candidates who are a better fit for your organisation’s culture and values.
Two widely recognised and reputable personality and behavioural assessment tools that small businesses can use to evaluate candidates are:
1. DISC Assessment: The DISC assessment evaluates candidates based on four primary personality traits: Dominance, Influence, Steadiness, and Conscientiousness. It provides insights into how individuals tend to communicate, make decisions, and work in a team. It is a user-friendly tool that can help you understand how well a candidate’s personality aligns with the requirements of a specific role.
2. Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI): MBTI is a well-established personality assessment tool that categorises individuals into one of sixteen personality types based on preferences related to extraversion/introversion, sensing/intuition, thinking/feeling, and judging/perceiving. It can provide valuable insights into a candidate’s natural inclinations and work style.
When using these assessment tools, it is essential to have a trained facilitator or consultant interpret the results, as this can help ensure a more accurate understanding of how a candidate’s personality traits may fit within your organisation’s culture and job requirements.