What can be called toxic behavior in the team? I would look for an answer to the team. Its main mission is to work together to achieve a common goal. If the behavior of an individual leaves a negative imprint on the entire team or even on its part, most likely we are dealing with toxicity. If someone, let’s say, is straightforward or emotional, but this is not directed against the team and the team coexists harmoniously with this, I would not consider this a toxic behavior. It can be concluded that one and the same pattern of behavior can be toxic and not, depending on the effect on certain people or a team.

It seems to me that the following can be attributed to the main causes of toxicity: emotional immaturity, a hereditary factor or a parenting factor (if we are talking about constant personality patterns, for example, aggressiveness or psychological instability), as well as personal problems or difficult life situations. I think, in rare cases, toxic behavior is a person’s informed choice for self-satisfaction.

There are a lot of discussions on the topic of how to solve the problem of toxic behavior in the team. The most common tips: distance, compromise, and feedback through the coaching technique “I-message” (when a person describes his feelings and emotions that caused toxic behavior).

In my practice, I have repeatedly encountered toxic behavior in teams and can highlight the most striking episodes. A couple of years ago, a young web developer, a graduate student at the university, came to my team. It so happened that he repeatedly became the cause of minor conflicts in the team. It got to the point that quarrels and verbal skirmishes happened with most of the employees. Due to the inexperience and the yet undeveloped communication skill, the intern incorrectly perceived normal communication, which is why he tried to sort things out in a team. We were helped by numerous conversations and a detailed analysis of situations.

One of the most difficult cases was with an expert employee whose toxic behavior could be described as a narcissist-egoist. He had broad powers and subordinate employees. The customer was delighted with him due to charisma and the ability to convince, but his subordinate colleagues complained of meager teamwork, numerous criticisms of them, and idealization of himself. Meetings with the team were often delayed, without certain results. Also, a striking toxic feature was the focus only on himself, on his area of ​​responsibility and his interests. In the case of the narcissistic employee, the following tools were effective: a review from his colleagues, coaching sessions, and an open discussion of my expectations from his work in those areas where there were drawdowns.