Top Tips to Stop Engaging in Toxic Workplace Behavior

BY Kathy Crosett
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Toxicity is making headlines these days. People everywhere find themselves locked in toxic relationships. They grow increasingly unhappy, but don’t take action to correct relationship behavior that’s anything but normal. Author Mark Manson outlined several relationship habits that people should change if they want to achieve happiness and stability. Manson’s advice is all about how to fix personal relationships. But you can apply it to work relationships, especially if you want to set a good example for how to behave in a professional setting.

Steve Sisler, founder of the Behavioral Resource Group, has said that toxicity in the workplace arises when an individual comes into that environment with specific needs and expectations. When those needs and expectation aren’t met by co-​workers, managers or the job, trouble is bound to develop. Here are a couple of toxic workplace behaviors you might recognize and Manson’s suggestions on how to improve them.

Keeping Score

We all know how miserable life can get when someone keeps score in a personal relationship. A work relationship can become downright toxic for the people involved and for other team members when someone is keeping score. 

Maybe you’re still angry about the time another department manager promised to get, for example, charts compiled for a report you were working on. They didn’t. The report was late, and you ended up looking bad. Since then, you take every opportunity to remind that person about how they messed up. Maybe you even refuse to help them out when they need your expertise.

You might get some satisfaction from ‘giving this person what they deserve.’ But in the long run, you’re hurting yourself. You’ll develop a reputation for being petty. Even worse, your team members are watching what you’re doing and saying. Once they see that keeping score is acceptable in the organization, they’ll be tempted to copy your behavior. 

Instead of keeping score, remind yourself that everyone is working for the same goal. You want revenue to grow and the company to succeed. When someone engages in behavior that you believe is unacceptable, think before acting. Did the other person deliberately want you to miss an important deadline? Or did you have unrealistic expectations about what they were able to accomplish? If you lost your cool because of what happened, apologize to the person. Resolve to work more cooperatively and model that behavior for your team members. 

Being Passive Aggressive

If you aren’t keeping score after a co-​worker has wronged you, maybe you’re acting out with passive-​aggressive behavior. You don’t actually want to talk to the other person about what’s bothering you. Instead, you might ‘forget’ to give them an important message in a timely manner. Or, you might ‘accidentally’ leave their name off a meeting invite. Stirring up trouble like this might give you a cheap thrill. You might even feel justified in acting like this. 

Sadly, it’s juvenile. Put on your grown-​up boots, walk to that co-worker’s office and have an honest and frank discussion about what’s bothering you. Agree on how things should change to achieve a solid working relationship.

When you model the kind of behavior you expect in the workplace, you’re establishing culture. And you’re building a business that will attract quality employees who want to succeed professionally.