It is a question that many leaders at different levels and industries keep asking themselves at least on a weekly basis: If research is correct that the quality of my life depends on my social connections, which in return impact my happiness, how should I handle those 40+ hours a week with negative and even toxic people around me? They take away my energy, they kill my vision and positive perspective and they just make me see the glass half empty instead of half full!
Whether hiring the wrong people, organizing teams with the wrong players or simply not dealing with toxic people in an efficient way will impact your personal and your organization’s productivity and performance. Together with some of my colleagues from the Forbes Coaches Council, we tried to find positive solutions to that tension.
Wendi’s advice: Disengage Through Diplomacy and Positive Solutions
Remaining diplomatic, neutral and polite toward a toxic employee is one sure way to extinguish any negative discourse or problem behavior. A great way to expand on this is to consider taking the higher road by not feeding into or clashing with a toxic colleague’s behavior. When the toxic colleague displays negativity, you can address it with positive solutions that disengage their behaviors.
Laura’s advice: Be Bold Enough to Care
I often work with leaders on cultivating curiosity and empathy. A “toxic employee” is also a human being. Start by getting curious about what they are experiencing in the whole of their life and practice empathy that demonstrates support. That alone may be enough to cause a shift, or you could discover that their “toxicity” is reflective of something deeper going on in your organizational culture.
Bill’s advice: Top Leaders Get Beyond Labels
The best leaders understand when they make an inference that a colleague is “toxic” they aren’t ready to “deal with” them until they unpack the word. What does “toxic” look like? What is a person doing when they are being “toxic”? Once a leader can describe the behavior, then they should confront the behavior (e.g., “When you [fill in the blank with such and such behaviors], it has the following impact…”)
Jessica’s advice: Be Direct and Open Their Eyes
Many times people don’t realize they are the ones who are contributing to the toxic behavior. Be direct and make them aware of what you are seeing. Don’t make an ultimatum, but present them with support and solutions allowing them to make the decision to change. If they choose not to change their behaviors, this is when you make a business decision later to part ways.
My personal advice: Listen, Lead and Leave
Normally toxic people aren’t toxic to the entire organization. It is just the wrong minds in the wrong crowd with wrong tasks. Good leaders listen first how their team feels about this toxic colleague and how this person pictures him/herself. Then they take the lead and re-shape the environment. If nothing works, leaders have the duty to protect their team and make toxic members leave the party.
This article was co-created by international executive coaches and initially published on forbes.com