Updated: May 15, 2020
Well, I don’t usually speak like that, but one of my coaches (Mirna Hidalgo) approached me in July 2017 and told me, “Vicky, I would love to work with you, and I have an idea. It might be a little bit over the edge, but the results will be amazing.”
Honoured, I enthusiastically smiled and asked, “What’s your idea?”
She said, “Fuck Off and Move On.”
I burst out laughing and asked, “Who needs to fuck off?”
She said, “Toxic people— at work, in life — you know. The vampires who suck away healthy people’s energy.”
Mirna explained that she was using strong language to emphasise a strong message. “It’s time to break free from a few taboos,” She said.
She had been coaching lots of people who are perfectly competent and well-intended — and they all had something in common: they were good people who suffered in relationships with abusive people. They needed help to deal with the toxic waste manipulators left behind.
The jackpot for me! It was an immediate YES!
So, we sat together, and we worked and reworked content, going through our personal experiences and the most recent research, to create a survival kit to help you identify the toxic people in your life, get rid of their negative energy — and move on.
Today, I want to take a moment to talk about some of the toxic characters you might meet in the workplace.
The Toxic Boss
If someone never experienced this, please raise your hand.
Have you ever had a boss who made you feel nothing you did was ever good enough? Someone you were always trying to please, working harder and harder until it made you unhealthy — and even when you delivered a masterpiece of work, you hear something int he lines of: you “could do better”? Maybe you work for someone like that right now.
Some of them, they charm you at the beginning (they are good at it). But hold on, why do they do this? You might be wondering. The answer is simple: because you are their source of narcissistic supply. You are their elixir.
How do they get there? At the beginning of the relationship (work or personal), they have a goal: to gain your trust. Therefore by enchanting you with ego-stroking compliments, you lower your defences: Until they need their narcissistic supply and this time you are trusting this person so much that their bullet of bullying breaks through without any barrier.
Disclaimer: Not EVERYONE who compliments you and appears to appreciate your work; it is a potential narcissistic and toxic person; some honestly and sincerely means the kind things they say. However, according to research, certain personality types use their charm and the power of enchanting to gain your trust. You then follow their “advice” without question, and it can be damaging. Compliments used to create obedience and shut down your critical thinking, are dangerous.
This is just one example of the kinds of strategies a toxic boss can use at work. There are many others: from outright lies to taking credit for your work, gaslighting, rude outbursts, and several other forms of manipulation or abusive supervision or micromanagement that can make you feel confused, exhausted and disrespected, and very often lead to sick leave, anxiety and even depression.
If you can relate to this, welcome to the club. Please know that you are not alone. So many of us may find ourselves mistreated at work. We tell ourselves that if we could only be what everyone else wants — if we could only “do better” or “look better” or “work harder”— we could fix the situation. This way of thinking leads to (mistakenly) assume that we are the problem.
Nevertheless, If you have a feeling of unfairness, well, my dear, you may be right. The problem is that you are focusing on the wrong side of the solution. The more you think, “What’s wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? Why me?” the less able you are to solve the problem.
Therefore, if you are stuck working for a toxic boss, you might want to exchange your “victim” mentality for a more proactive perspective and start setting boundaries and taking care of yourself.
Remember that a healthy relationship grows on constructive feedback.
If someone makes mistakes, there are two ways of addressing the problem: a healthy way and an unhealthy way.
If you want someone to do better, you sit down with them and empower them. You lead by example. Showing respect is the key to building a productive, respectful communities.
By contrast, the Toxic Boss swings back and forth between hollow compliments and undeserved criticism, picks up on every tiny mistake, attacks with active or passive aggression and breaks down your self-confidence, one day at a time. I hope you now understand why is so important to know yourself, build a strong self-esteem and know your worth.
When talking about Toxic Colleagues, I think of the type of bitch who seems to live to make your life miserable, for no apparent reason.
I am against the overrated and inappropriate use of “bitch” to refer to a strong, outspoken woman. However, for the sake of the example, let’s use the term to refer to a type of toxic colleague that makes your life at work bitter. Sometimes, it’s necessary to hold our ground and protect ourselves from being taken advantage of by poisonous influences.
By “bitch”, I mean someone who goes out of their way to belittle you(or others) — someone who is resentful of anyone else’s good fortune(no matter how small) and wants to tear you down, simply because they’re frustrated with their own life — someone who is just MEAN.
The Toxic Colleague is someone who:
· Steals your ideas
· Gossips about you behind your back
· Pushes you down while making you believe they are helping you
· Takes advantage of you because they have no lucid, original ideas of their own
· Pokes their nose into your business to try to burst your bubble of accomplishment and light
In other words, the toxic colleague is someone who acts from a place of JEALOUSY and ENVY.
There is a “normal” level of jealousy (to want what someone else has) we all feel from time to time — but once you cross the line, this becomes a bit edgier, and it is what my granny always called: Envy.
It means taking away what the other person has. It means wanting the other person not to have/accomplish/be who they are. So that is not healthy at all in any way.
One way to avoid being hurt by this sort of behaviour is by not playing their game. Acknowledge the fact that the Toxic Colleague wants to drag you into a game where only they know the rules, and you will always lose. Then, don’t play. NOT joining the battle will save you many headaches.
When we first started working on this project with Mirna, we talked to women just like us who at some point, had found themselves in similar situations. I’m sure this is a subject that affects men, as well, but it seems women talk about it more. The consensus is that at work or in our relationships, there may be an energy vampire sucking away our sparkle.
Well, it’s time to learn how to recognise them and let those vampires fly away — without harming them. Just let their influence go.
Note: We have tested the concept, and it seemed more appealing to women, perhaps because men currently occupy most leadership positions, or because women seem more open to talking about this kind of issue. However, one can find toxic personalities both among men and women. If you are a man who is suffering the same and interested in learning how to deal with toxic people, you are also welcome to join us in this crusade!
Vicky Martinez Dorr is a qualified Branding Consultant, Business and Leadership Coach, Speaker and Author with certifications in NLP and TimeLine Therapy® and Magna Cum Laude from Solvay Business School in Brussels, Belgium. With her universe of words, she is on a quest towards helping leaders reconnect with themselves, thrive and move towards an exemplary leadership world.
Her 15+ years of MarCom experience in International Branding and Multicultural Leadership have taught her how to bring beauty out of chaos in any organisation and people's professional lives.
Her findings within the fragmented leadership, have moved her to start working towards a more authentic business world and more humane leadership culture.
Vicky is also an Artist, a serial Entrepreneur, CEO of the Start Up www.yourbrandstory.eu and Founder of www.atreefortheplanet.org LinkedIn: https://be.linkedin.com/in/vickymartinezdorr Reach out at Shine@vickymartinezdorr.com