The Toxic Personality – a definition

10-11-2009 | steve | Toxic Personalities |

Anyone who knows me well knows that I enjoy delving into personality profiles, behaviours and traits.  As a practitioner of change and workplace performance, my attention turns to the many facets of the toxic personality; how it is impacting our workplace and each other.  With a view as to what makes a healthy work environment you can expect a number of my future blogs focused on this subject.  What strategies, what tactics and what can be done to restore productivity and civility back in our jobs.

Today, I met with Larry, one of the most upbeat guys I know. Larry was so excited about his new job. He loved the company he used to work for so I was surprised by the change. When asked what prompted the decision to move, he related that he had tired of working for a tyrant of a boss. Larry’s story was riddled with examples of rudeness, bullying, sarcasm, incivility, rumour mongering, overblown ego, demeaning emails, and profane language; all the telltale signs of a toxic personality in full swing. Faced with these challenges, Larry made a valiant effort to work around them, but after being exposed to this poisonous person for a period of term, Larry decided he had had enough. He was tired, depressed and “sucked dry” of energy. More importantly, it was affecting his own behavior, and through him his family and friends as well.

Sadly, while Larry has been able to escape such a terrible working environment, Larry’s previous colleagues continue to work with a boss that makes life challenging.

The toxic personality as those who continually show a pattern of behaviour that hinders individuals and teams from achieving their potential. Not just behaviours but “BADhaviours” that breakdown relationships, minimize contributions and stunt performance.

With the economic realities facing companies today, no organization can afford to ignore a toxic workplace and the personalities that foster it. However, exposing toxic elements that exist in the workplace is not an easy process.  In my next blog, I’ll touch on what can be done to identify and help make changes to behaviours.

4 Responses to “The Toxic Personality – a definition”

  1. Leslie says:

    Hi Steve!
    I love the story of Larry – and unfortunately, all too many of us have had personal experience with this kind of workplace. Since I’ve assisted with some of your training programs, I know you do a great job of raising awareness and bringing change and accountability to the workplace. NOW…we just need to get the word out. Managers and staff need YOU and your training to bring about change. I wish I would have known there were resources like you when I was in the “thick” of it! Leslie

  2. So true. Even more upsetting is when the toxic person is in your own family. Bringing their behavior to their attention can be asking for more unwanted drama and abuse.
    I can’t wait to read more about this topic.

    • steve says:


      Thanks for the response and highlighting that toxic personalities also exist on the personal side. Dealing with family brings a whole new dimension to the subject and I would agree that it is much more difficult to deal with, yet it can be done if the desire for change is strong.


  3. Bravo for Larry. Some of us are left in an unfortunate position. I wish you could give me some words of wisdom as I battle daily routine of hearing endless gossip, people gathering in cliques, repeated absenteeism by the same parties and one and on and on. Please help. Thanks.

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