Unlike Santa, Toxic Teams Exist.

A lot of us like to believe that toxic teams exist, but are “out there” and might not be anywhere near us. When we are placed into a team where there is toxic behavior, we are often unsure on how to approach it. This can be difficult whether we are a manager, or just your “normal” everyday geek.

Before we start digging into the content within our chapter (titled “Dealing with a toxic team”) I would like to share with you a quick cartoon that depicts some types of toxic behavior that you might experience in an office or have seen before (The Office is a great show to be thinking about while reading this chapter):


Toxic Teams
Toxic Teams


Our chapter has a lot of great content on this subject, too much so for a reasonable length blog. Thus, I am going to give a brief chapter overview, and then dive into some more of the specifics in detail. The chapter opens up discussing “Two Essentials”, which are two big headings that talk about: “how teams become toxic”, and rethinking blame. Which are some good things to keep in mind while reading this blog. The next (large) piece of the chapter goes over “4 Steps for dealing with a toxic team”, which are: “1. Find the toxic behaviors and their impact…2. Claim and assign responsibility…3. Choose your intervention…4. Implement and monitor.” The chapter then goes into detail about each of the four steps. The final piece of the chapter talks about how to determine whether the strategies and interventions you have put into place are actually working (monitor and tweak.)

I found a great article titled “How to deal with the bad apples on your team, written by Veronica Puailoa, who is the Marketing Content Manager for GoToAssist. In her article, she makes a great point. Toxicity (that is being toxic) on a team can either be situational, or part of their (the toxic person[s]) nature(s). This is a very important distinction to make. It means that someone can be put in situations where they are led to outputting toxic behaviors, or it can be part of who they are. One is shapeable and fixable, and the other is probably futile to try and repair or change, and you should probably save some time (and make everyone happy) by just firing them.

So how do we know if it’s just situational toxicity or if it’s in their nature? Veronica makes some good points to help you determine and classify what type of toxicity it is (quote from her article, linked above): ”
It’s situational:
– Try placing them in a role that better fits their talents
– Assign them to a different project
– Isolate their work from other members on the team
– Physically isolate their presence on the team to decrease interaction

It’s in their nature, which means you might have to fire them, because they are:
– Ill-equipped for their current position
– Difficult to work with
– Unable to change

If you have determined (based on the lists above, or other factors) whether it’s worth trying to help the person or people, you may need to make an intervention. So, what is an intervention? I honestly think that “How I Met Your Mother” does a great job of showing what to do and not to do for an intervention, and a comedic twist to what they really can look like (or feel like to the person.) See the video below:

This was a great chapter, but it failed to make a distinction between types of toxicity, which I think is very important.

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