How to deal with toxic people in your company

How to deal with toxic people in your company

03 February 2021
Gerrit Sarens
Gerrit Sarens
  • You see toxic people at all levels in the organization, not only at C-level what we typically think.

    They have a huge impact on the organization because they impact the motivation and well-being of other people. That is why it is called ‘toxic’; it is like a poison that infiltrates your organization.

    What you also notice is that leaders typically do not dare to act. Consequently, toxic people often stay for a long time in the organization and create a lot of damage.

    You often end up in a situation of acceptance. People, including the leaders, endure their presence and often try to rationalize it ("they have done good things for the company; they have valuable knowledge that we need"). But in most cases, it is just fear. What will happen when I go against them?

  • Characteristics of a toxic person

  • Toxic people attach themselves like cinder blocks tied to your ankles and then invite you for a swim in their poisoned waters.

    John Mark Green
    • A difficult person
    • Conflict-minded
    • Convinced that they are always right
    • Extremely critical
    • Feels superior vis-à-vis other people
    • Manipulates people and situations
    • Huge desire to be in control
    • Gives other people the feeling that they are the problem
    • Destructive in their relationships
    • Intelligent at the basis, often with strong expertise in their field
    • Lacks ability for self-reflection
    • Don't take responsibility

    They want to protect their kingdom, defend their reason to exist. They have a huge fear of losing their power. That is often the main source of stress for them, often in combination with underlying personality disorders or traumas from the past, which leads to toxic behavior.

  • Good leadership means being courageous

  • It is in the company's interest and everyone working there to act decisively and not to accept. Toxic people will never have a positive impact on the organization. IT is naive to think the problem will go away. Overcome your fear to act. Be a true leader and protect your people and your company.

Struggles of a manager

Managers are

  • not or inadequately trained in this role


    • lack self-confidence
    • don’t know how to go from being a colleague to being a boss
    • need to loosen up on the command & control leadership style
    • must let go of the (technical) expert status
    • cannot give or accept constructive feedback
    • feel pressure to perform as manager
    • have difficulty building relationships
    • want to be liked by everyone or want to be the ‘bad boss’
    • play the hero
  • are struggling


    • stay too involved in operations
    • have trouble prioritizing
    • cannot delegate
    • fear conflict situations
    • disconnect from the team
    • deal with flawed strategic thinking
    • do not relate to higher management
    • lack clear communication skills
    • remain not self-aware
    • avoid difficult conversations
    • miss political antennas
    • ...
  • capable of more


    • need mental preparation as successor
    • need to be able to lead big changes ahead
    • need to learn to be emotionally resilient and in control
    • need to learn to make big decisions fast without all the information
    • must become persuasive presenters
    • need to learn how to cultivate their own personal brand
    • need to learn how to lead by example
    • manage by trust, not by fear
    • need to overly develop empathy
    • ...
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