Of these 9 toxic personality types, how many work for you?


What is a company? In a broad sense, it is nothing more than a collection of people who are working towards common objectives.

No company is any better than the people who work in it and lead it. Identifying and removing problem employees should be an ongoing task, but owners often distance themselves from day-to-day issues because they don’t want to be bothered with the details and associated headaches.

This is unfortunate because you will create and build — or damage and lose — sales, service, profits, cash and reputation at each point of contact with your customers.

When toxic employees deal with prospects, customers, business partners and other employees, the results can be ugly.

Here are nine personality types that may negatively impact your company. See how many you have on your payroll. Think about potential or real damage that these folks have caused.

Someone in your company who does exactly what they are told to do and nothing more is The Soldier. When it comes to processes and procedures, this person will do a terrific job because they are in heaven just following orders.

Don’t expect initiative or creativity and know that this type won’t win any customer service awards. Their strict “by the book” approach won’t win many converts.

The Whiner exists in every business. If you are uncertain who this is, just listen. In no time, your Whiner will emerge verbally. Once identified, a pattern quickly emerges: this person complains about anything and everything – nonstop.

Whiners enjoy the sound of their own voice. They complain so often that they often forget who they told what, so expect to hear a broken record. If this person’s lips are moving, they are complaining.

Related to The Whiner is The Needy. What sets the two apart is that The Whiner will complain to anyone, while The Needy only wants the attention of their immediate supervisor. No one else will do. If the boss happens to be unavailable, this employee will do nothing until they can opine to the boss.

The Victim’s claim to fame is that nothing is their fault. This individual is a master of escaping responsibility by transferring blame to someone else, anyone else. And they are terrific at it.

There won’t be a paper trail or record of emails, reports, handwritten notes or voicemail messages. The Victim knows that they can be brought down with evidence so they go the extra step to cover their tracks and eliminate any trail of failure.

The Victim is good at giving advice and will gladly accept any offered to them. But don’t expect anything to happen as a result. It might be hard to believe, but this type often gets promoted because they have a track record of success.

Do you employ The Defiant? What’s nice about this kind of person is that from first day it’s clear who and what they are. They will challenge anyone, in public, on any subject, at any time. The Defiant believes that diplomacy, or being nice, is for losers and wimps.

For daily drama, watch for The Emotional; they make the rest of your staff unproductive. No one can stand the daily soap opera that makes up this individual’s life, so everyone hides to avoid having to be part of it. No one ever tells The Emotional to “get a life” lest they hear about it all day long!

The Manipulator has memorized and knows by heart every word, phrase, sentence and intent of the company employee handbook. This person isn’t going to give his or her employer a single second of time or one iota of effort beyond the bare minimum to keep getting a check.

The General is everyone’s favorite employee; of course, I’m kidding. Regardless of title or position, they bark orders at people. Mostly unencumbered by the high rank they think they deserve, they act the part they aspire to. This only infuriates those around them. “Who died and made you King?” is often asked of The General.

A person who does neither much harm nor much good is The Eunuch. In my experience, these individuals have been around for a long time. They believe they’re productive and hard-working. In reality, they generate a lot of activity and noise with little or nothing worthwhile to show for it.

What can an owner do with this information? First, identify who fits what profile. Second, rank from most dangerous on down. Third, confront the behavior with a candid and blunt conversation to direct quick and permanent change in toxic behavior.

That conversation may not take hold, so be prepared to take step four. That’s termination, and with it the freedom to practice these toxic behaviors at a different place of employment. Why keep toxic people on your payroll?

Ken Keller is a syndicated business columnist focused on the leadership needs of small and midsize closely held companies. Contact him at [email protected]. Keller’s column reflects his own views and not necessarily those of The Signal.

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