What Does Toxic Behavior in the Workplace Say About Us?

Livia Smith

Children who challenge authority want to be empowered and in control of their own lives. When I was a kid, I went to a public school in a big city in a big neighborhood, and I learned that kids can be cruel and mean to each other. According to research, children who do not know how to handle conflict with their peers or adults may resort to violent actions that cause significant harm to others (i.e., through school shootings). These children engage in extreme behaviors in order to demonstrate to their peers their desire to be independent and capable.

Outward warning signs that teachers should be aware of include a student’s refusal to cooperate in the classroom, avoidance of participation in school activities, and repeated attempts to challenge authority. These are all symptoms of someone who is self-defeated, has low self-esteem, and is dependent. However, research indicates that the child’s actions are defense mechanisms. Professional teachers must investigate why the child exhibits these behaviors. A wise teacher confronts these behaviors and leads the student to a secure and trusting environment.

One of these students was me. I didn’t want to be the center of attention, nor did I want to be aggressive, but I did want to fit in and be accepted by my peers. I was fortunate to have mentors in my life. I remember the pastor at my mother’s church stopping me and saying something very encouraging to me: “You are going to be that special someone in life.” Because he demonstrated acceptance in a large and chaotic world, his kind words kept a lot of anger from manifesting in my growing years. All children require is a reassuring word that they are important and that we, as a society, care about them.

Growing up in a negative environment without mentors and good teachers would have left scars on my psyche.

Teachers, on the other hand, must not react emotionally or become distracted by a student’s ethnicity or size. Reacting to a preconceived notion of their personality does not cure these students. Instead, be dependable and establish a connection with them. Never try to shape their behavior; instead, challenge it. Someone once said that what you see on the outside is not always indicative of what is going on on the inside. Ignore the outside expression and focus on the person who is crying out for help.

You may be wondering what this has to do with the workplace. It’s relevant because conflict is almost always present in the workplace. It begins when certain behaviors are not immediately addressed. If our problematic childhood behaviors go unchecked, they will be challenged in our adult lives, either by society or by your coworkers. Bullying, rage, vindictiveness, and yelling are all manifestations of this behavior.

We’ve all worked with or heard of adult “babies” at work. Those whose power and attention-seeking create a psychologically negative and toxic workplace environment. This makes work a hellish place where people despise going because the negative person’s behavior was never addressed when he or she was a child.

If you’re a manager or team leader, you should have a strategy in place for dealing with those who have never outgrown their disrespect for authority. Society is not always forgiving, and it will not tolerate disrespectful or toxic workplace behavior.

Based on my experience, here are my recommendations:

  1. Role modeling entails modeling the behavior that you want your employees or team members to emulate as a supervisor or team leader. We are taught to lead by example in the military. If you want professionalism, loyalty, and ethical behavior, you must set a good example. I cannot emphasize this enough. People imitate their surroundings and their leaders. So, minimize the negative and embrace the positive. Don’t let favoritism contaminate your workplace. Have you heard of the term “teacher’s pet”? There are also the boss’s servants. This behavior reduces the employee’s creativity and reduces the likelihood that the organization will see a return on investment in them.
  2. Concentrate on the Issue – When you notice undesirable behavior in an individual or group, concentrate on the source of the problem. Do not leave it unattended. Throughout my career as a leader, I have always focused on the problem child who brings that behavior to the workplace. Keep in mind that others are watching how you handle this unacceptable behavior. So, like a laser beam, zero in on it and zap it!
    Counsel the Problem – Once the problem has been isolated, isolate the perpetrator and counsel them. Don’t go about it negatively. Explain to the individual how her actions are affecting the organization, team, or workplace. Remember that you want a workplace that is harmonious, efficient, and professional.
  3. Reinforce Policies and Regulations – Gather your organization’s or team members’ members and explain your organization’s policies, regulations, and procedures, as well as how to deal with unwanted workplace behavior. By doing so, you’re setting boundaries and creating a stable environment that boosts productivity and profitability.
  4. Finally, record your counseling session with the individual employee or team members, and outline a plan to administer appropriate punishment if additional offenses occur. When a violation occurs, never hesitate to carry out your disciplinary plan.

Dealing with conflicting behaviors at work is a task that should never be underestimated. When all leaders recognize it, it should be dealt with immediately (i.e., teacher, supervisors, team leads or managers). Remember that when toxic behaviors become out of control, other employees or team members will follow suit.