In order to be successful in the work you do, you need to dedicate your time, effort and mental strength to what you pursue. But sometimes what makes your work difficult is the toxic behaviour of difficult people around you that fuel negativity, stir up doubt and generally make your work harder. Some people may cause endless interpersonal conflict and tend to make others feel bad about themselves on a regular basis. Toxic people deplete your energy, distract your thoughts and derail your progress and make you question your abilities.
We all encounter such people even in our personal lives or outside of our work places. We may also find traits of toxic behaviour that are undesirable in our coworkers, amongst our friends, or even in our family. Your interactions with such people in your life or workplace can be damaging to your self-image and create anxiety and stress.
When we come across toxic behaviour in our personal lives or in workplaces, it can be quite destabilising and has negative emotional impact with feeling of being deeply discounted or deflated, robs us of our enthusiasm and can lead to confusion or chaos. Your attitude to your own self is important, but it is more so when you have to deal with difficult persons who tend to rub you the wrong way. They usually are mean and grudging about everything and have an aura of unpleasantness about them. Toxic behaviour of such people not only inflicts a personal hurt, but also negatively impacts your success, wellness and productivity.
Toxicity of difficult people
People can be either easy to deal with, or difficult to deal with. Our relations with the former remain pleasant and smooth. We like such people. Relations with the latter are often under strain and friction. We often tend to dislike them as they create unnecessary complexity, strife, stress and toxic environment around them and others. You may experience toxic behaviour from anyone be it a parent or sibling or a friend or a co-worker or a superior in your workplace. One thing is common about such behaviour is that they try to justify their behaviour and they don’t want to take responsibility for their actions.
Toxic behaviour can be of different forms like bullying, humiliating in the presence of others, or intimidation which is not only hurtful in the moment but makes you feel worthless and fearful in the future. Even blaming others, gossiping and rumour mongering are considered as subtle forms of toxic behaviours. Avoidance or ignoring a person in meetings or social events can be also be a toxic way of putting someone down.
Toxic behaviour can be a product of certain kinds of environments and it is important to know how to recognise such behaviour and how to deal with it effectively. Here are some character traits to identify toxic people in your life or at workplace.
Narcissistic: They are all about themselves and view themselves as more desirable and talented than anyone else around. They want to mange through fear and relate to others in a condescending manner and they even take credit for others successes and have a habit of manipulating thereby giving less importance to others or trust or teamwork.
Judgmental: They are highly judgmental and can be quite arrogant and intimidating. They have a habit of criticising making negative conclusions about your choices, or ideas without any reason and never give you a constructive feedback.
Controlling: These people control through manipulation and deceit and they exploit your weaknesses. They tend to inhibit your creativity and ignore your ideas or decisions because of their know-it-all attitude. They think they are never wrong.
Pessimistic: They have a habit of bringing everyone down by going on about downsides about every idea. They might drag you into their negativity, stirring up doubt and disappointment with in you. They tend to play victim card and never own up to their mistakes.
Retrogressive: They are unwilling to go along with others, greedy, clingy, dishonest, angry, insecure, greedy and mostly are non-believers. They often resort to gossip and telling lies that breeds suspicion and will make your environment unproductive.
Non-empathetic: They cut down your plans and ideas in front of others, belittle your actions, and create feelings of low self-esteem. They lack empathy and can resort to harmful ways to bring others down and this also makes them deflect their ability to consider the consequences of their actions.
Complainers: They are fault finding, blaming and often wallow in their problems and fail to focus on solutions. They are certain about what should be done and they never seem able to correct the situation by themselves.
Hostile people: They tend to react violently and can be cynical, argumentative and have trouble being in the wrong. They can be egotistical and are often difficult to deal with. They often engage in toxic behaviour trying to cover up their own insecurity and avoid taking responsibility for a problem and blame others.
Other character traits like aggression, paranoia, or sadism can also be attributed to toxic behaviour. Toxic behaviour is the result of prioritising self-interest above everyone else’s, inability to consider another person’s perspective or emotional state, and not caring enough to acknowledge how their behaviour affects others.
How toxic behaviour affects productivity in workplace
People look for meaningful work and they want to be part of teams that are efficient, engaging and one that contributes to the work place’s purpose and success. Any organisation’s or a workplace’s success is attributed to its culture which becomes its character. In today’s work culture, where people work in teams and project-based models, with daily interactions, there is more probability of facing or come across toxic behaviour of difficult teammates or coworkers. If some toxic behaviours are tolerated for some reason, it not only makes the good talent leave the organisation, but they also fail to attract the right talent.
Certain workplaces might give importance to expertise or other measurable skills thereby undermining the toxic behaviour as they might think losing an expertise can impact their work or business. But if tolerated can have long-term implications by negatively impacting the culture of workplace, their growth, right talent, and productivity. If a workplace is toxic,
• It results in unhealthy and damaging communication patterns like complaining, blaming thereby causing lack of trust. Poor communication, or withholding information, or giving misleading information which makes the place not only dysfunctional but also makes it difficult to follow and implement proper procedures resulting in creating inconsistencies and low productive work.
• It is often difficult for people to work together and accomplish their tasks in toxic environments. People who work in such environments often have emotional issues like depression, anxiety, irritability and a sense of fear or failure.
• Toxic culture might lead to biased behaviour which can lead to poor level of motivation and commitment to work.
• Unhealthy competition can lead to toxic behaviours like lack of cooperation, blame-game, gossiping, or unhealthy work environment.
If you work or live in a toxic environment where toxic behaviour becomes a fixed way of operating, then you become a target of hostility, rudeness, bullying or other forms. As a result, your productivity, morale, and engagement in work decreases.
How to deal with toxic behaviour
Whether in our personal or work lives, we likely have encountered such people with toxic behaviour and some difficult personality traits, while some may have developed the ability to deal with them in a peaceful manner, others seem to struggle in dealing with difficult people. Whether it’s your co-worker, your neighbour, or your friend or your family member, sometimes people can be overwhelmingly difficult. If you have to deal with someone who puts up resistance, things can go quickly out of your control.
To deal with toxic behaviour effectively, you need to hone certain strategies that can enable you to control what you can and eliminate what you cannot. If you can develop the ability to remain calm and manage your emotions when faced with difficult people and deal with them in an appropriate way, you can gain more control of the situation. Handling difficult people may not be easy, but it is important for your well-being. Here are some strategies to deal with toxic behaviour in your personal or work situations.
Set firm boundaries
Toxic person is one who refuses to hear your perspective. Any attempts to explain yourself or being reasonable only frustrates you as they refuse to understand your perspective. Be assertive in saying no to the demands that feel unreasonable without explaining or justifying yourself. Avoid interactions with them that increases their aggressiveness or that encourages intense emotions. If you work on a team with toxic people, set a clear boundary by limiting the time you spend with him or her. Keep your communications short and clear without getting bogged down with too much emotion. You don’t need to convince them as they will not see your point of view. Avoid being defensive and don’t waste time proving that you are right. If you don’t set limits, you are bound to find yourself constantly embroiled in difficult conversations. Minimise your interaction and try to keep things short by excusing yourself from conversation or by bringing a third party into the conversation.
Control your response
We normally respond immediately when we feel challenged wth unreasonable behaviour of people. Difficult people most of the times are irrational and are not creatures of logic. They are full of prejudice and are motivated by arrogance. So, there is no point in responding to them emotionally and get sucked into their negative emotional spiral. Distance yourself from them emotionally and take time before you speak or respond. When you find yourself with a person who is engaged in a toxic behaviour, decide when it is worth your efforts to discuss or when the issue must be addressed. Choose better time to resolve or to communicate. Don’t give them opportunity to manipulate you or twist your words. Do not resort to name-calling or react impulsively, instead the more calmer you remain the more likely it is that the other will reflect on his/ her behaviour.
Communicate with clarity
While communicating with aggressive and intimidating people, the best way to deal is by not engaging in an argument. Being polite and precise in your language can give them less room to engage in their toxic behaviour. Don’t focus on their criticism or inappropriateness, instead focus on your actions and response. You should know you are in the right to deal with arrogant people. Validating and getting to know their perspective can help them turn their behaviour around.
When dealing with chronic complainers, the best way is to allow them to complain unless they also present a solution to the issue. This will reduce their ability to affect you or fellow team members or those around you. Setting time limits and list of things to be accomplished to those who stall or procrastinate or unfocused or disorganised can reduce your stress and frustration. Communicating the consequences of their actions and behaviour can make them change it.
Find your support-system
Sometimes it will be entirely ineffective putting up with such behaviour alone or tackling it by yourself if you have emotionally invested in such behaviour. Tap into your support system to gain a perspective on the person involved and his or her behaviour. Identify people outside your work or team or family and those who root for you and ready to support you and seek their help to deal with such behaviour. Strengthen your ties with your friends and others you trust. This can help balance your perspective and having your point validated can boost your self-esteem. Find activities that keep you away from the toxic people and toxic environment.
Seeking support sometimes can be more helpful as others can be a solution as they are not emotionally invested in the situation.
Know when to move on
Before we seriously think about dealing with difficult people, we must accept a basic principle of living – we can do nothing about the way people are. Sometimes, we cannot deal with the way they are. In such cases, it is better to know when to move on by being practical and realistic. There is no point wasting time dealing with people who make no efforts to acknowledge their behaviour and change it.
If their behaviour persists, it is better to step back and reevaluate the situation. If you develop an ability to look at your part in the situation, you can choose whether you may want to tactfully correct their behaviour or want to pursue a conversation and try to resolve the differences in a calm and rational way. Sometimes if their behaviour is deliberate and habitual, then it is better to avoid any further engagements with such people because their perspective may not change.
Focus on solution, and not on problem
When you are in conflict with a toxic person, your unchecked emotions can be damaging. When you fixate too much on the problem, you create a prolonged negative emotions and stress. Fixating on how difficult they are gives them power over you. Instead if you focus on solutions to deal with such behaviour, you can create a sense of personal efficacy that produces positive emotions and reduces stress. Stop thinking about how troubling or difficult the person or his/ her behaviour is and focus on how you are going to handle them.
Your failure to understand a person also results in ‘his’ becoming difficult. For a proper understanding of difficult people, it is important to understand yourself as others see you. Make sure others meet the real you. And you meet the real other person. Sometimes even having high expectations without thinking of others’ rights and limitations, puts too heavy strain on others where they are forced to react unfavourably and they get difficult to deal with. Focusing on solutions makes you more in control in dealing with toxic behaviour.
Consider which of the strategies above will be most helpful to deal with difficult people in your life or at your workplace or business. When you find yourself in specific scenario where you find signs of toxic behaviour, consider asking yourself the following questions.
Am I part of the problem or am I trying to cast blame?
What will happen if I just let it be or what will happen if I take control of the situation?
Am I in the right frame of mind to deal appropriately with the person or situation?
What can I do to prevent such toxic behaviour happening in future?
Take some time to think before you act or respond if you are angry. Go to the person and deal with it and if you think you cannot deal with the difficult person all by yourself, seek support from a friend, or closed one or a coworker if it is in a workplace to get a read on your feelings.
Implementing healthy strategies while dealing with difficult people will prepare you to better handle stress and hbetter equipped to deal with any difficult person.