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Is Wilful Toxicity Hurting Your Business?

Wilful Toxicity (Blog Cover)

Have you heard of wilful toxicity?  No… You might not have heard the term but chances are that you may have experienced it before.
If you've ever been in an organisation where there's one person, or a group, that goes out of their way to cause discord and disruption amongst everyone else and is purposely out to interfere and throw a spanner in the works of your operations then you might have a case of wilful toxicity, and if left it could not just ruin your culture but your entire business.

This is not something to take lightly or hope that it will magically disappear.  You need to know what you're dealing, what the impacts are and then how to go about making it better.

So….what does wilful toxicity look like? Willfully toxic people are not people that hide in the shadow’s, they don’t hide what their objective is and they are blatant about bringing you and the organisation down. Here’s some signs to watch out for:

  • They constantly undermine everything you do and say

  • They are consistently negative about everyone and the organization

  • They bluntly tell you “you won’t last here”

  • Other people have left the organisation, stating them as the reason why.

  • They do a small part of their job and nothing else and refuse to do anymore

  • They purposefully obstruct information and communication (from customers and other employees)

  • They gatekeep systems and processes so no-one can see what’s happening

  • They refuse to take on any feedback

  • They intimidate other people to keep everyone fearful

  • They blame and shift focus, taking a zero accountability approach

  • They blatantly throw people under the bus


What drives it?

There’s a couple of key factors that drive these people.  

Fear:  They know that other people, including senior leadership, are frightened of them.  They prey on other people’s fears and use them to keep those people in a constant state of subservience.

Inaction or rewarding:  Nothing happens to them.  No matter how bad they behave and act towards others, no matter what they do, there are no consequences for them.  In the worst circumstances the fear drives leadership to actually start rewarding them.  This seems incredible but is not uncommon.  Rewarding someone for bad behaviour comes from the hope that they’ll be thankful and hopefully toe the line next time…..They won’t.


What can you expect to see in the organisation when wilfully toxic people are left to run wild?

  • Resignations - the good people leave and that means the good work stops happening

  • Customer Frustration - it might be hard for customers to see the impacts of a toxic person or group of people but feel it they will.  If you’re noticing more customer complaints or frustrations it’s time to start lifting up the top layer and seeing what’s underneath.

  • Lack of ideas and problem solving - people in your organisation don’t openly share their thoughts and ideas for fear of upsetting the toxic person/people.

  • Brand destruction - in the worst cases and if this is left over time, then the brand of the organisation will start to rot….from the inside at first and then the outside.  Which can cause the loss of funding, revenue and reputation.


What you should be doing

Firstly, every situation is different but if you’ve read the above and fear you have wilful toxicity in your midst then there’s some key actions you need to take as a starter:

  • Start documenting everything - keep every email, face-to-face conversation, reports from others.

  • Get your brave britches on - armed with facts and an open ear, you need to have the conversation with the person you think is willfully toxic.  Present a situation, how it’s made people feel and then ask them why they decided to take the actions they did.
    Listen. Intently listen.  There’s a saying that hurt people, hurt people and this is usually 90% of the issue with a willfully toxic person.

  • Connect with an Employment Relations specialist - If you’re living in fear of what might happen you need to step into reality by connecting with a specialist who can tell you what your options are in your circumstances

  • Make a plan and put it into action - After doing all the above don’t then decide to sit on your hands.  Make a plan, share it and then action it.


If some or all of this is ringing a little to close to home then please feel free to reach out and get in touch