Last udpated 11/09
Have you ever found that the people most guilty of unruly behavior at work are also the ones who are most oblivious to their behavior?
Take Fred, for example. Fred is the guy who asks you to "help" him with a big presentation (aka, you do the whole thing). But when Fred is congratulated on a job well done, he takes full credit for the work you did.
Or, look at Susan. Susan talks to you for hours on end about herself -- her family, friends, work and play -- but never does she ask about what's happening in your world.
And we can't forget about George, who may as well come with a warning label that reads "Dangerous When Angered." One wrong word, question, criticism or opinion and he blows his lid.
All of these people are examples of toxic personalities, which are showing up in the workplace now more than ever.
"During economic downturns, the 'shadow' side of our personalities can bring out the worst in people," say Dr. Mitchell Kusy and Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, authors of "Toxic Workplace! Managing Toxic Personalities and their Systems of Power."
Toxicity spreads like a nasty virus
Perhaps the worst part about noxious workplace behavior is how it affects those around you. According to a study conducted by Kusy and Holloway, 94 percent of respondents said they had worked with or were currently working with a toxic person.
"Before you know it, you have caught the 'infection' and find yourself acting in ways that complement or replicate the very behaviors that are making you angry, frustrated and/or depressed," Kusy and Holloway say.
Here's how to know if you're a toxic personality, and how you can save yourself from your sinful actions:
1. Deadly sin: Envy
Did a co-worker get the promotion you'd been waiting for? Did your colleague surpass you -- again -- in sales? You should absolutely acknowledge others' achievements but don't use them as a standard with which to measure your own. Kusy and Holloway say that when you're envious of someone else, you naturally want to undermine his reputation and the way others gravitate toward him. But in the long run, you're only undoing your own reputation.
Salvation: Bury your envy and start focusing on building a reputation as a team player, Kusy and Holloway suggest. Figure out how you can start turning your envy into passion or positive energy.
See Also: Are you Burned Out on the Job?
2. Deadly sin: Gluttony
More is not always better. Though everyone is anxious to climb quickly up the corporate ladder, none of that will matter if you don't care who you plow through to get to the top. While it's definitely OK to ask for more job responsibility, it's more important to maintain a balance.
Salvation: One of the most critical mistakes regarding gluttony is not considering your team enough, Kusy and Holloway say.
"You don't need to belittle and diminish someone else for your work to be noticed. Work with your team so that you are all noticed for innovation and productivity. Make sure that you are in the lead of building a positive team climate; making everyone look good on a project will make you look good as a team player."
3. Deadly sin: Greed
Everyone is guilty of wanting more: more money, more power and more responsibility. The problem comes when you try to use your position to punish others, demand their loyalty or take all the credit for the work that others have done.
Salvation: It's best to focus your goals on the long term. If you only concentrate on quick, short-term gains, you'll probably do well in the moment but you won't be able to extend yourself to the next level.
4. Deadly sin: Lust
Lust in the workplace isn't limited to office romance. You might lust after a nicer work space or even your boss's job. But, spending your time focused on what you don't have or others' work achievements rather than working to further your own is a sure-fire career killer.
Salvation: "What length will you go satisfy this lust?" ask Kusy and Holloway. "If it extends to deceptions, badmouthing your co-workers or undermining the productivity of the team, then your emotions are ruling your actions with disastrous results. Go to your supervisor and ask him or her to put you on a development plan that can segue you to that next new job in the organization."
5. Deadly sin: Pride
Personal success is your M.O. -- you have no problem taking credit for a job well done, even if it was a joint effort. You have the absolute belief that you're always right; you always want to be in control, and you think other people won't -- or can't -- do their jobs. While it's a good feeling to be right, no one is always right, Kusy and Holloway explain.
"When you are right and make sure that everyone else knows that they are proven wrong, you can be sure that you have lost their support in the future," they say.
Salvation: First, realize that building a reputation for getting things done right is to build a team that does it right together, they say. Remember that sharing credit with everyone who deserves it makes everyone accountable. Finally, give praise where it is due and you'll be shocked how much comes back to you, Kusy and Holloway say.
6. Deadly sin: Sloth
If you're lazy, complacent or indifferent about your job, you're on the express train to nowhere. Just because you've been successful in the past doesn't mean that success will carry you through the rest of your career. Sloth becomes toxic when there's a continued pattern that becomes counter-productive to workplace productivity.
Salvation: There are several steps you can take to keep your laziness in check, Kusy and Holloway say. First, take stock of yourself and determine where the source of your laziness lies. Are you bored? Do you need to be more challenged in your role? Next, make a specific plan to increase your productivity at work. Figure out how you will measure your expectations and make sure it's feasible, they say.
7. Deadly sin: Wrath
Anger and malice benefit no one in the workplace. Harboring secret hatred or angst toward your boss, colleagues or general work environment will only create an atmosphere of negativity and abuse around you, Kusy and Holloway say.
Salvation: Any pessimistic feelings you have toward co-workers or work are bound to surface eventually, Kusy and Holloway say. If you're angry with your boss, figure out what is bothering you and then see if you can talk to him or her about it. If you're unhappy with your work in general, it might be time to start looking for a new position.
Next: 10 Worst Work Habits >>