Whether you’re talking about activities for team building or any sort of in-office collaborative work, few things can be more damaging to group interactions than a toxic personality.  You know the sort of people:

  • Constantly self-aggrandizing.
  • Always finger-pointing to dodge blame.
  • Endlessly negative towards the contributions of others.
  • Full of snarky/passive aggressive comments.
  • Credit-grabbing.

It would be nice if you could always avoid them, or find ways to evict them from work, but that’s not always the case.  Especially if, as is often the case, they have a very particular and irreplaceable area of specialty.  However, it’s vitally important to look to minimize the impact their poor attitude has on the team, otherwise they can drag everyone else down.

When crafting our activities for team building, we recognize that there’s usually at least one toxic personality in every group, and try to manage them.  Many of the same principles can work in any business setting. 

Minimizing the Damage Done by a Toxic Personality

Get them thinking in terms of “What’s in it for US?”

One way or another, “what’s in it for me?” is one of the favorite questions of toxic personalities.  It reflects their “me versus the world” attitude.  Try to structure answers to the question so that they emphasize what everyone is getting, not just themselves.

Don’t let them get away with sucking up.

Toxic personalities often latch onto a boss or leader who’s susceptible to flattery and use that to manipulate them.  Be aware of this tactic, and don’t let it influence you.  Or, even better, make it clear that you’re looking for original contributors.

Get them to open up.

Most people with toxic personalities tend to be fairly closed-off regarding their emotions, background, and other ‘touchy’ subjects.  While it’s not guaranteed, putting them in situations where they’re forced to open up a bit and talk about their personal feelings can help make them more sympathetic towards others as well.

Minimize their responsibility.

If all else fails, at least look to keep them from spoiling things for others.  Keep them within their zone of specialty and don’t let them stray too far out of it, or take charge of group activities. Make it clear that you’re promoting wing mates, not solo pilots. 

Need help creating activities for team building?  Contact Dr. Clue for great team building adventures like scavenger hunts and other fun events. Learn more about your team and improve teamwork and relationships with Dr. Clue!