top of page

Does every negative behavior can be called toxic?

There is no workplace where you will not find people who tend to act with a negative attitude towards most of the situations. Though does it mean that every person who acts in a way that impact people negatively can be called toxic?

Toxic behavior may occur in various ways.

Everybody understand what toxicity is from their own experience, values and expectations how person should act or react to certain things. Toxic behavior is defined as an act that cause negativity to your or others' lives. The behavior can be physical or mental and may be expressed by lying, blaming, manipulating, gossiping or being passive - aggressive.

Not all negative behavior can be called toxic.

Nowadays it is very popular to use term of toxic behavior or toxic person on almost every step of the way where people may feel negativity around. The term of toxicity is very powerful and can be harmful to the person whom this label has been tagged to. Therefore, before using the term, it is very important to understand why person is acting the way that causes negative feelings for others: maybe it is from the place of not knowing or the place of being too curious or feeling not evaluated enough. For example, if person asks many questions without malicious intentions, this cannot be called as toxicity, but rather curiosity or rudeness, if it is something that oversteps boundaries of recipient's values. There are simple steps, to determine whether person is toxic, or it is just a misunderstanding:

  1. be open - tell the person who cause negative feelings, that the behavior that he is showing towards you is something that you do not like, explain why and ask not to repeat it again.

  2. listen - give an opportunity for a person to explain why he or she behaved like that and try to understand the reasons, maybe there is something that caused this behavior where you are responsible for.

  3. keep your end of the bargain - normally during these conversations you may find middle ground that should make both of you more comfortable in future encounters. In this step it is important that both parties keep their promises. If the behavior stops, this is something that for sure would not be fair to treat as toxicity, but if it repeats, this is something that enters the land of toxicity, because from that point, you can eliminate the not knowing or not understanding element from the situation and potentially it is conscious act.

Facing toxic people - what to do?

In the cases when simple talk did not work and behavior is continuing to be present, it is obvious that stronger actions need to be taken, because there is no way that this behavior will disappear, if it is not addressed properly. There can be various ways how to address the situation, but before even coming up with the action plan it is necessary to understand deeper reasons why person is acting like that:

  1. maybe person is tired and needs time off.

  2. maybe person feels underestimated in work place.

  3. maybe person needs a change in function that he is performing.

  4. maybe it is time for a person to change a company.

  5. maybe person have personal issues.

  6. maybe ...

Depending on the reasoning, ask the person to prepare an action plan, how he or she will address the situation. It is important that the plan draft comes from the exact person whose behavior is under question, so he or she would feel ownership and motivation to act on it. Managers / team leads role is to advice on certain things and watch the progress. If the plan does not work, there is always a hard decision possible, if that would save the wellbeing of the rest of the team.

Final thoughts

Before you jump into conclusions that person is acting toxic, try very simple 3 step approach and see whether person hear you and you both can find the common ground. If after this the behavior does not change most probably there are deeper reasons to it and more actions should take place to fix it.


bottom of page