We’ve all crossed paths with toxic individuals. They throw verbal zingers, whine, violate confidences, play head games, break promises, and generally get under your skin. It seems you just can’t escape dealing with toxic people. They sit in meetings with you, are part of your team, or were passed from one business unit to another through promotion.
Now you feel you’re stuck with them, and the rudeness, thoughtlessness and bullying rants they regularly discharge leave you and others feeling devalued, placing your emotional control and healthy mental outlook at risk.
But you can do something about neutralizing toxic people. Here are four key strategies to start:
1. Designate a Toxin Handler
A toxin handler is a natural leader within your business who can help employees deal with organizational life. The toxin handler can help soften the blow that triggers feelings of powerlessness when dealing with a new boss, or changes in policy or company structure. They run interference to avoid potential toxic occurrences and workplace violence. They counsel, advise, and shield employees from the wrath of angry managers, in order to minimize disruption of the individual or team’s normal flow of work, productivity, and operations.
2. Pace and Lead
One of the tenets of NLP® NeuroLinguistic Programming is moving the person from their current negative emotional state to a desired state using a process that involves pacing and leading.
Pacing means almost matching someone’s posture, breathing rate, tone and volume but avoiding any volume or tone that might escalate the situation. Listen carefully for their story to understand the mental map of their world. Occasionally shift your posture, slow your breathing or uncross your legs, to demonstrate you are dealing with the issue, and not confronting the person.
Summarize their story by feeding it back to them using their language of what is happening now, based on what you believe is true about their experience. Connecting their problem or complaint to a solution or answer helps them think, feel, or do better.
By establishing rapport, the other person will follow you. If they don’t follow your lead, you can do some more pacing until they are ready.
3. Define Boundaries
Eliminate frustration and ambiguity for everyone by defining job responsibilities, roles, and expectations. Make it clearly-defined, concrete, behaviorally-specific and put it in writing for future referral. Make certain Standards of Behavior an expectation with a clear explanation of consequences for not following them. As an organizational leader, you must “walk the talk” yourself.
4. Maintain Your Leadership Role
Toxic people enjoy getting under your skin to undermine your confidence. When they do, keep your demeanor composed, confident and decisive. Resist the emotional pull of the moment. Take the time to think and respond in a controlled and deliberate way.
Don’t give toxic people a free pass just because you value their skills and productivity. Clearly explain the consequences of their actions no matter how effective they are in their respective jobs.
Dig deep to get a closer look at what is driving their behavior, whether related to career development, home life or work environment. Offer counseling and resources to help them alleviate the underlying issue.
Make behavioral standards part of a periodic performance review process. Once behavioral standards are in place, utilize 360-feedback, and document performance.
—Handling toxic people as a leader involves tough decision making. Are you making the hard decisions and taking the steps to neutralize toxic people, or are you avoiding them?
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Copyright 2017 Jennifer Touma Mindscape