We have all experienced toxicity in the workplace. It distracts from productivity, impacts morale and therefore retention, and can do irreparable harm to your company’s image.

As a leader, be on the lookout for these behaviors. Sometimes it is a single lapse in judgment that can be corrected, but it can also be a pattern of behavior. Don’t make the mistake of thinking it is a harmless workforce dynamic.

Identify the behavior that will not be tolerated and communicate clearly what the change expectation is. Losing a team member that you have invested a lot of time and effort in is not ideal. It may impact your bottom line in the short term to make this correction, but in the long term your organization will be much stronger. Your team will feel safer and more supported, and they will know that you stand by your values.

Here are some of the toxic behaviors to look for. Some people are very controlling and will micromanage a project to death. They just can’t let go and unleash the potential in others. They have to have the final say on everything, and this can really stall a project.

Those passive-aggressive individuals will often appear to be supportive on the surface, which makes their jabs unexpected. They are not likely to have an open, direct conversation with you about their disagreement or objections but will find ways to act it out instead. You need to establish a company culture that promotes clear communication and a supportive work environment so your team will share when they notice this behavior.

Next is the highly competitive personality. Healthy competition can be a great driving force and even build team spirit, but it can turn into competition at all costs to the detriment of co-workers and/or the public image of your organization.

Some people will critique everything, no matter how great your idea. Yes, constructive criticism is necessary, even crucial for growth and development, but some people thrive on pointing out the negative or why an idea won’t work. This too will stifle creativity and can create an environment where it feels unsafe to try new things or take necessary risks.

Next is the personality that blames everything and everyone else rather than taking ownership of their mistake. Of course, you want to account for all potential contributing factors to a problem so you can correct accordingly, but this is different. An employee who plays the blame game and throws their teammates under the bus for their mistakes is poison. As the leader you should create an environment where it is acceptable to make mistakes and model the behavior of owning your mistakes.

Some people live for drama, it lends a bit of excitement to their otherwise dreary lives or creates a diversion from deadlines and responsibilities. They love the limelight, can be emotionally reactive and downright attention-seeking in behavior. Don’t respond to this type of drama, it is exactly what they want. With all of these toxic behaviors, address them quickly and spell out the expectation for behavior change.

Dr. Siquilla Liebetrau, Psy.D., HSPP, is a licensed clinical psychologist and clinical director of the Bowen Center. You can contact her at Ask.DrLiebetrau@BowenCenter.org.

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