What if your “baddest”... is your worst? ( Note: “the baddest” is slang meaning the best at something – used as a compliment). Toxic you, badass you.. a creeping venom seeping into your veins.
Is my post a homage and a tribute to the dark and insane side? Is it about how to select and detect people that are willing and able to cross ethical lines or express other toxic behaviors? Is this post about predicting in which team a creepy tribe will form? Or about how to heal the world, psychological safety for everyone? … It’s all possible, you decide how to handle this reality of life…… human beings.
In this post I present the dark side of the Corporate Identity Model developed by People & Analytics. It’s a framework of the reality and diversity of people, the darkness in genius, the success of insanity .. the negative outliers or.. Toxic people.
Relax…most of us are just Average…
Only a small percentage is a positive outlier a Star, creating a higher percentage of valued outcomes in companies. Another small percentage is seen as a negative outlier or Toxic.Both positive and negative outliers have ripple effects on outcomes and culture.
The ‘negative’ outliers engage in what moralist or society may call, highly negative behaviour such as aggression, intimidation, dominance, harassment and lying (and mask it/or not, with charm, silence…). This toxicity could infect an entire department and even get the ‘average ones’ corrupted acting in the same toxic way risking a 46% increase of ‘average people’ being fired for engaging in toxic behavior. So, yes.. following negative outliers is apparently appealing and corrupting but when you (naively) lie down with dogs, you get up with flies….
Research shows when a toxic person moves away or is terminated, the risk of continued toxic behaviour stops immediately…., interesting because…
The dilemma is ….
Toxic workers are more productive than average workers. Research shows (Gino and Ariely (2012) and Frank and Obloj (2014)) there is a potential trade-off employing unethical people (the charming dark triad) who are willing to bend and break the rules, people .. or themselves and excel in work performance, at all costs … “be the fox to avoid the snares, and a lion to overwhelm the wolves” (Machiavelli). Their success explains how toxic workers can persist or lead an organization. Of course there is another important predictor telling us how smart or dumb your toxic behavior may be, called IQ (e.g. being ‘the brains’ behind an operation). Why this focus on persons and not the environment? A Harvard study shows that 70% of explanatory power in researching toxic behavior and actually being fired for it, comes from the person vs 30% from the situation or environment.
The Sharks and Narcissists..
We all know the stories and warnings for the Sharks in Sales, Narcissistic Bosses, Dominant Micromanagers and the Psychopathic Board members and how some people suffer and/or benefit from their ruthless risk taking or dominant powerplay.
Yes, they take risks and are more extreme. However.. “playing it safe, not taking a risk is probably the most dangerous thing you could do in today’s rapidly changing and highly competitive business environment” (-Seth Godin-).
‘Negative’ Outliers have something intriguing. We approach them with a double standard. As long as they succeed (or have power), we (humans) are willing to accept their madness or even destructive disorders.
These men do not need an introduction, none of the above are famous serial killers (known to us) or artists, their stories come down to one thing….. they lead a Successful Business and at the same time (some more structural than others) they are huge dicks.. with a compulsive eagerness to make it happen, take the risk and… succeed more than fail. No progress without friction, no Yin without Yang..
Other (less famous) toxic ones..
What about all those other toxic behaviors we encounter in companies, our more silent and less famous brothers and sisters that wear us out …. slowly infecting the corporate cult(ure).
What about the aimless and indifferent, the so-called ‘laissez faire’ leaders having no opinion of their own and actually being uncritical. The sluggish lethargic, the immature reckless rogues, who never staying on track (always fun) but never focussed leading your company astray. Or the compulsive or self-absorbed avoiders, sometimes seen by others as (probably?) being smart, since they always seem to listen …. . Or a bit more in the open.. the drama queens, the provoking challengers, the submissive doormats eager to please or… our overprotective white knights, saving us all (from you… dark triad shark ;)) feeding of their white knight syndrome. Don’t forget the conservative en closed minded people who when becoming a leader stop every new initiative, hold your department back from trying new things or innovate, or even secretly sabotage interesting mergers or acquisitions.
Oh… and don’t forget our Plain Janes and Average Joe’s, some of them being deceitful Slippery Eels, guarded cowards playing it safe … hiding their unprincipled, inscrutable, calculating and secretly deceitful character. I’ve seen them all…that is why I feel this overview is so refreshingly human!
Corporate Identity Model (-the dark side-)
Do you recognize any of them or how they affect your corporate culture and team? Do you want to know how to handle some behaviors or what the impact is of (toxic) Leadership? Would you hire more Stars or Avoid Toxic workers, first know what their trade off is.
In case you wonder: where did the Slippery Eels go in this overview? They hide appropriate in the average middle…….
People & Analytics developed the dark side of the Corporate Identity Model; a Framework of Big Five personality, where the ‘darker’ extremes meet. A complex combination of the 5 personality traits Extraversion, Conscientiousness, Agreeableness, Neuroticism and Openness. Some combinations being more (un)healthy for you and others, but hey,… that is in the eye of the beholder….
Note: Some extreme behaviors could have the potential risk of a Personality Disorder (PD) or other mental health issues. A personality disorder is a type of mental disorder in which you have a rigid and unhealthy pattern of thinking, functioning and behaving. If you have any signs or symptoms of a personality disorder, talk to someone you trust, your doctor or a mental health professional. Untreated, personality disorders can cause significant problems in your life that may get worse without treatment. In some cases, you may not realize that you have a personality disorder because your way of thinking and behaving seems natural to you.