We all have to grapple with toxic people – how to deal with them and how not to be one of them. All of us, as team members or leaders, would do well to see if we have any unhealthy residue of toxic behaviors in our own lives, just enough to limit our impact in the lives of others and our organizations. Rather than pointing out the flaws of others, take a look at your own behaviors and, if you do not like what you think you see, get a coach, mentor or counselor to help you! Here are five of the most common toxic people you will likely experience or even become...
Toxic Person #1: The Narcissist… I’m special and I know it!
Narcissists are people who have an extraordinarily high view of themselves and an exaggerated view of their uniqueness and strengths which results in extreme self-centeredness. Some of the common signs of narcissistic leaders include a sense of entitlement, blaming others for failure, depending upon rhetorical skills to cover problems, and, above all, transferring focus to themselves. Like the pharmaceutical leader who raised the price of a life-saving tablet of medicine from $13.50 to $750 and did it with a smile on his face – it’s all about him/her!
Toxic Person #2: The Socially Clueless… I’m not dysfunctional. I’m just not a people person.
The Socially Clueless person is the person who strongly manifests some of these characteristics:
- Missing social cues
- Being socially awkward
- Lacking empathy and emotion
- Displaying combative behaviors
Similar to other toxic people, Socially Clueless people seldom see themselves as toxic even though they are easy to spot, awkward to relate to, and difficult to work for.
Toxic Person #3: The Control Freak… I cannot, not be in charge!
Control can be the outgrowth of fear, narcissism or perfectionism. Regardless of the cause, the Control Freak can cause demoralization and irritation by not trusting the skills and judgments of others. Control Freaks will seldom attract or retain highly talented people and catalysts because such people would feel smothered and parented.
Toxic Person #4: The No Can Do Person… I’m sorry, but the answer is NO!
Whether it is due to their upbringing, personal insecurity, issues of control, their unique personality wiring, or some combination, the outcome of the No Can Do person is seldom good. They quench the creative thinking of others, train others to also lead with NO, create a culture of excuse-making, and cause others to find alternative ways of getting things done. By consistently leading with NO, this type of person will seldom experience long-term success or have a significant impact.
Toxic Person #5: The Lukewarm… I’m not unmotivated. I’m just content.
Are you wondering how this made the top 5 list? While it seems much more benign than the Narcissist, the Lukewarm person can have a disastrous impact on the lives of others, just far more slowly. This person is known for a lack of energy, laziness, lack of innovation, and absence of passion. In some ways, the Lukewarm person manifests a failure to thrive. They don't push themselves very hard and they attract people similar to themselves. Such people embrace mediocrity and will not attract donors, catalyst employees, or highly committed volunteers because they provide very few reasons to be followed. And their departments, churches, businesses, and sometimes even their families and relationships decline… ever so slowly.
Jay Desko is the Executive Director of The Center and serves on the Senior Leadership Team at Calvary Church in Souderton, PA. Jay brings experience in the areas of ministry assessment, leadership coaching, decision-making, and strategic questioning. Jay’s degrees include a B.S. in Bible, a M.Ed in Instructional Systems Design and a Ph.D. in Organizational Behavior and Leadership.