There comes a time when we all need to evaluate the people in our personal and professional networks to determine if it's worth investing more time in those relationships.
Your time, my time, is just too valuable to waste. I barely find the margin to invest in the positive relationships I want that will be mutually beneficial, lead to productive outcomes, and possibly friendships that could last a lifetime.
So why should I spend time pleasing people who don't share my values or interests, or serve me well? Actually, I shouldn't, and neither should you, especially if they display the toxic traits below.
That's not a selfish statement (especially as you read further). It's a declaration of good boundaries that will safeguard you from the unsafe people who could turn against you.
Here are the types of people you need to cut ties with, like now.
1. Cut ties with gossipers.
You know who they are--most likely disgruntled workers who didn't get something their way, disagreed with a change of direction and are now holding grudges, or didn't get that promotion they felt entitled to. They are quick to gossip, and even quicker to hammer leadership for "dumb decisions." They spread their tumor by enlisting others into their negative spin campaign. Steer clear of them because you may be next on their hit list.
2. Cut ties with your co-workers on social media that bring you no value (but plenty of headaches).
The incessant negativity that dominates your feed (political and religious debates, and other insensitive drivel), and drive-by comments by co-workers trolling your status updates, may be draining you and hurting how others perceive you. Protect your personal brand reputation, not to mention your dignity and self-worth. Make no excuses and start unfriending them. Keep the people you work with on your friends list that you know you can rely on to contribute, build bridges, and foster positive connections.
3. Cut ties with judgmental people.
Since judgmental people criticize anything and everything as if it were a hobby, they shouldn't expect you to come to them for advice or problem-solving (you know in your heart that it's a total waste of time to do so). What a judgmental person will do is alienate colleagues at work against you. They jump to conclusions before hearing all the facts and don't listen. Make this a priority, and watch your peers slowly gravitate toward you as you make it safe for them to do so. Remember this: When we judge, we invite judgment upon ourselves.
4. Cut ties with people who lack accountability.
These toxic workers lack some serious self-awareness. They don't exercise responsibility and own up to "their stuff" when "their stuff" is at fault. Remember the old saying "For every finger you point, there are three pointing back at you"? They are critical, can't admit to their own mistakes, and they will blame their colleagues (or subordinates, if it's a manager) when something goes wrong, even if it's not based on reality. They are simply not accountable for their own actions.
5. Cut ties with people who kiss up to management.
They will go out of their way to befriend and manipulate management in order to negotiate preferential treatment--undue pay raises, training, time off, or special perks that nobody else knows about or gets. Keep an eye out for colleagues who spend way more face time with their managers than usual. The wheels of favoritism may be in motion. Time to cut ties.
6. Cut ties with people who are not being fully upfront and honest.
This person will withhold information, or not tell you the full story around a situation that involves all team members. He doesn't say what he means, or mean what he says, so people don't know where they stand in relationship with that person. Clear communication is rare, and often results in your hearing one thing on Monday and something that totally contradicts the original message on Wednesday. If this has been going on for a few months, don't expect change. This is their modus operandi, and the basis for it is manipulation. It's time to cut ties.
The solution to the problem
As a front-line employee, if you're wondering how to avoid these people in the first place, since you work and may be stuck with them, well, this is a good question deferred to management. It should be their responsibility to keep a finger on the pulse of the organization to make sure the environment is safe and productive, and that people are getting along.
For managers reading this a bit nervously, a good option is conducting a culture survey to diagnose organizational health--at a cost (consulting firms like ours do this for a living).
One less expensive route is to conduct stay interviews to keep the good people (your high performers) from leaving. Managers will learn a great deal about what's really going on through personal interviews, but confidentiality has to be ensured. This strategy doesn't work for every company, if trust has eroded.
The bravest thing people on the frontlines will ever do to counter these toxic behaviors in their co-workers is to expose the problem, talk about it, bring it to HR, and campaign against it with those who are in your corner.
And be ready to leave if the workplace becomes a hostile environment. That's when it's time to cut ties with your company.