It always seems to happen, doesn’t it? You want to focus on work. You need to focus on work. Yet, there you are, faced with someone who is determined to share every toxic thought with you. They are out to erode your motivation, support and waste your time. Just two days ago, a person that I have never met, was standing in front of me and was complaining about her situation and wanted me to do the same. She didn’t know me. I certainly didn’t invite her to share her opinions and problems – nor did I encourage them. Yet, there she was, wasting my time with her toxic attitude. It happens to all of us and it is especially damaging to our teams.
So how do we handle it? Personally, I refuse to join in and will try to offer a solution. Through my many years of experience, I have learned not to trust those who spew. They are looking for credibility and will use your innocent words against you. A simple, “why don’t you just go talk to the person” usually disarms them. You are offering a solution, which isn’t what they are looking for or what they really want. In this situation, I employed my, “you should really go talk to <name> and ask what factors he uses to make the decisions.” Needless to say, that is NOT what she wanted to hear. After realizing she wasn’t going to get anything else from me, she went on her way.
It isn’t always that simple, especially in the context of the team. Toxic attitudes can spread like a disease. If they are not handled properly, a team’s dedication, motivation and future all spiral out of control. So often, there is usually one member of the team who has attitude issues and is just difficult. We try to make life better for them. We tip-toe around them. We let them do things their way. Anything just to make our work life bearable and not upset the other team members. As leaders, we often think it will damage a team more when someone is removed than it is to leave them, and their toxicity, in place. It doesn’t work though. Inevitably, we are usually forced to make a move.
What happens after the move, which usually is traumatized even more by the toxic instigator?
If you are a true leader, you are someone who can go in and set things right. Acknowledge that the environment has been difficult. There might be tasks that no one knows how to do. There might be initial mistakes made. That is to be expected. Do not let the team feel like they cannot go on without their toxic instigator. Show them how positive the change really is!
Ask for the team’s feedback on how to move forward. Invite ideas for change. Engage them on how to set a culture of positive influence. It just takes key questions and an open mind to their answers. The best part is, you don’t have to do it alone. Invite a coach to come in. A third party who has no personal gain at stake. Someone who can develop an organizational plan for your team. Someone to help build the trust that was eroded away.
It happens time and time again and the turn-arounds can be amazing. Team members who did not appear to be interested suddenly become owners of their work. They set goals and standards that can truly amaze you. Not only did you not know they had it in them – they did not know they had it in themselves. Eliminating toxic waste can do wonders for a system! It is time to take on the toxic – with some help, you will win too!
Thank you for joining me on this journey. Comments and questions are welcome. For more information on an assessment of your current business functions visit our Services page.