How to Identify Your Toxic Traits in the Workplace

9 to 5

How to Identify Your Toxic Traits in the Workplace

toxic traits

It’s often easy as human beings to study others behavioural patterns and point fingers but how often do we ever stop and check ourselves? When was the last time you analysed your personal behavioural patterns and identified your personal toxic traits?  


Playing the blame game is seemingly the safest way to avoid identifying our toxic traits but there needs to come a point where you should engage in serious self–evaluation and discern whether we are the source of your own problems. We also need to identify how we project our energy onto people.


Toxic traits are destructive behavioural patterns and dysfunctional interactions that create a demotivated workforce. Do you have an unhealthy professional relationship with your colleagues? You might just be the guilty party in this instance. Don’t get defensive, get to work! Here’s how can you identify your toxic traits in the workplace?



You always tend to see the worst in situations and constantly shut down ideas from your colleagues. No contribution or ideas from your workmates are ever good enough and you constantly have low expectations of people. Your negative behaviour is the source of poor communication in the workplace and your colleagues don’t voluntarily share their inputs with you.



You are quick to project negative qualities on others. Your biases and prejudices often appear in the guise of sexism, racism, ageism, hierarchy and other discriminatory behaviours. If you are in charge of hiring, you tend to stereotype and make uninformed and negative assumptions about the candidates.

Being discriminatory may also be subtle. Subtle discrimination tends to be difficult to prove and can be intentional or accidental. It is frequently considered socially acceptable such as comments or jokes but could make people feel unwanted or uncomfortable. You may find yourself telling jokes about someone else’s race or gender. Using patronising speech such as baby talk or speaking in a controlling manner may also be subtle discrimination.



You tend to blow all problems out of proportion, create unnecessary drama, dominate conversations with your stories and push people away with a constant need for attention. When talking to your colleagues, do you spend as much time listening and asking them questions as you do talking?  If this sounds like you, you are possibly self-absorbed.

In some cases being self-absorbed can also mean falling into the trap of self-pity. You may struggle with the victim mentality and convinced that not only is life beyond your control but it’s deliberately out to hurt you. You also enjoy feeling sorry for yourself. In your workplace you always have your colleagues feeling sorry for you and feel attacked when given constructive criticism, amongst other things.


Highly Inflexible and Complacent

Being inflexible in the workplace is not entirely toxic. However, if you have a high need for perfectionism and order, then you could possibly be highly inflexible. Because you are inflexible, you get locked in a pattern, which in turn creates complacency. You tend to struggle to adapt to new technologies and are automatically dismissive to new ideas.


Passive Aggressive

Most of us are guilty of being passive aggressive and various tactics fall under this umbrella. Passive aggression in the workforce may be deliberate and used as a vengeance tool towards your colleagues without them becoming aware of your anger or frustration. Do you find yourself withholding important information, ignoring emails, procrastinating, misplacing important documents, extending your lunch break or calling in ‘sick’? Passive aggression tends to quickly manifest into bad habits and manipulation without us even being aware.


Identifying your own toxic traits is uncomfortable but the first step towards self-improvement is acknowledgement. If this was triggering I hope you will be willing to actively work on your toxic traits and unlearn certain behaviours and habits.  Did you identify with any of the above? If so, how would you score yourself out of 5?


Words by Wandi Jama


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *