Preparing in advance to ward off toxic people is a way to protect yourself.
Posted by Rita Watson MPH on May 23, 2019
Whether in social situations or the workplace, we will encounter people who exhibit toxic behavior. Ironically, we know the signs, but even The Psychotherapist’s Guide to Neuropsychiatry: Diagnosis and Treatment Issues has no mention of such behavior in the table of contents.
What comes closest to defining the behavior, however, can be found under “The Anxious Cluster of Personality Disorders,” (p.353). With toxic behavior—whether stemming from tendencies that include obsessive-compulsive disorders or passive-aggression, for example—there are recognizable scenarios. People with toxic behavior will often be disrespectful of boundaries. They may speak critically of others or rudely to others. Some may frequently interrupt people who are in conversation. The worst will likely manipulate others to meet their own needs, or undercut colleagues or friends to their own advantage.
First, in her PT post, “8 Things the Most Toxic People in Your Life Have in Common,” Abigail Brenner, M.D., says:
“Toxic people are manipulative. Their modus operandi is to get people to do what they want them to do. It’s all about them. They use other people to accomplish whatever their goal happens to be. Forget what you want; this is not about equality in a relationship—far from it.”
How Toxic People Affect You
Dealing with toxic people at work can be a challenge, particularly in a workplace with a toxic boss. There have been major studies assessing the problems of toxic environments and what leaders can do to address the problem which—if it remains unchecked—leads to reduced workplace productivity (e.g., “An Empirical Study Analyzing Job Productivity in Toxic Workplace Environments”).
For many years, women struggled in the workplace and often found themselves sabotaged, frequently by another woman. An all-too-familiar scenario occurred when someone cozied up to a co-worker, plied her for secrets, and then shared the secrets with others in the department. In Sisterhood Betrayed, there are many interviews with women who were undercut by colleagues. The stories portray women “who feel the need to take from another a hard-earned position or place, who feel that in order to succeed, it is necessary to manipulate rather than create, to take rather than earn” (p 198). Women who are victims of this should be aware that such behavior can be manipulated by men behind the scenes.
How can a toxic person be handled? Confront without being confrontational. Point out the facts to the person. Remain free of emotion. Then walk away.
Protecting Yourself From a Toxic Personality
From a social perspective involving family, friends, and neighbors, most people rely on their instincts or a careful decision-making strategy. When encountering toxic people, here are six suggestions for dealing with them before resorting to the ultimate solution—cutting them out of your life.
Ellison, J., et al, (1994) The Psychotherapist’s Guide to Neuropsychiatry: Diagnostic and Treatment Issues 1st Edition, Washington, DC, and London, England, American Psychiatric Press. 1994
Anjum, A et al, (2018) An Empirical Study Analyzing Job Productivity in Toxic Workplace Environments, International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, 2018 May; 15(5): 1035
Barber, J., Watson, R. Sisterhood Betrayed: Women in the Workplace and the All About Eve Complex, St. Martin’s Press, New York, 1991.