It’s a very common experience, you’ve started somewhere new, you’ve met everyone, had your first interactions and someone drops the classic “there’s one in every office” about one of your new cohorts. And you know exactly what they mean.
Toxic traits and relationships continue to spring up in our personal and professional lives. Meeting new people means you’ll meet people who fall short of your expectations.
But how can we manage toxicity on a path to letting go, effectively putting these relationships to rest?
The thing about toxic behaviours is that they follow patterns, that you can identify. After negative interactions, try to have a clear idea of how things started, what co-opted or triggered you and think about how you can avoid the interaction next time.
This may be as simple as redirection, getting the toxic person to interact with you via email for example, rather than direct engagement. This can cut down on obnoxious behaviour such as gaslighting by making sure there’s a clear record to refer back to.
Setting hard boundaries for interaction, and maintaining them, can be tricky in our personal lives where we have maximum freedom. In our professional lives we can feel limited by our employment, perhaps obligated to engage. But our professional lives come with some aspects that empower us to tackle toxicity.
Firstly there are colleagues whose job it is, in part, to help you facilitate good working relationships, namely management and HR.
As a rule of thumb if you feel the toxic behaviour is crossing your personal boundaries then you should seek out a member of the HR team for a confidential chat. They should be able to guide you on what is or is not covered specifically by policy, but also give you more practical human centric advice.
If you think the toxic behaviour isn’t as much about you as about working attitudes, managerial staff can be a good old place to start. Chats like these should also be confidential, but they can offer more practical ways to challenge the undesirable behaviour without disrupting the general flow of business.
Wherever you want to start, be clear about what’s happening and how it is affecting you. Within reason, try to provide some examples of the behaviour you wish to bring to light.
But it doesn’t always resolve. Hence, there’s one in every office.
Letting go here unfortunately does not mean letting go of the relationship, but rather letting go of your desire to give your best to everyone. When people are unreasonable and toxic, without straying into outright indecency, you can do what is required, and no more.
If they can’t respect you with basic decency, they don’t deserve anything other than the basics required.
There is of course another party you can talk to, the toxic person themselves.
It can be fraught with challenges, not least a sense of our own guilt that we are letting go of someone, even if we have good reasons. But that other person should know why you no longer wish to communicate or interact with them.
We all make the best decisions based on having all the information we can, and toxic people need to know how they are perceived and the effect that they have on others.
Letting go of the relationship but telling them what’s wrong gives them a powerful example of cause and effect.
Once you’ve done the hard part of moving forward from toxic interactions, letting go of the toxic people you encounter, we can find more comfort for ourselves.
A sense of belonging, in personal or professional settings, is one of the underlying concepts that allow us all to get on together, to do all the things we think are important.
Toxicity creates friction and unhappiness that chips away at belonging and comfortable interactions and as such, when you’re ready, you have the power to let go.
So do it.
To learn more about eliminating toxic people from your life, you may be interested in reading my book “Freedom from Toxic People and Toxic Relationships”.
If you’d like support, please contact me here.