Monthly Archive for February, 2012

The Top 5 Traits of Toxic Teams

Toxic Teams, Toxic People, Low Performance Teams, TeamworkAt one time or another chances are you’ve worked in a Toxic Team

You know what I’m talking about don’t you?

One of those teams where the week feels like this:


Seriously though, there are some common traits that are alive and well to some degree in all Toxic Teams and the reason I’m giving them to you is because sometimes you’re in a Toxic Team and you don’t even know it!

As human beings we are very good at adapting to our environment so what this means is, we can sometimes not only endure highly stressful or demoralising situations BUT actually trick ourselves into thinking what’s happening is ‘okay’ or ‘normal’.

So here are The Top 5 traits of Toxic Teams you need to know about:

  1. Favouritism – It is very clear to you that there are some people who have somehow been anointed and are part of the ‘in’ group.  These ‘special’ people get preferential treatment, the best performance reviews, the biggest bonuses, taken to lunch with the boss and when they underperform the manager looks the other way.
  2. Snakes in Suits – The manager hardly ever acknowledges you or anyone else in the team for that matter for the great work they do because they’re too busy taking credit for everyone else’s hard work.  You sometimes wonder if the boss even knows your name… The bottom line is, these managers have no time for anyone that cannot further their OWN career and when things go well they’re right there to accept the kudos and when they go badly they’re Missing in Action.
  3. Mind Numbing Meetings – You dread the meetings and will do anything to get out of them because they’re disorganised, start late, always run over time, are dominated by grandstanders, no one ever follows through on agreed action items and last but not least… They’re BOOOOOOOOOOORING!!!!!!!!
  4. The Mirror Treatment – “We’ll look into it.”  You know this one don’t you?  Every time you need something fixed, need some action taken or waiting to hear the outcome of an important decision you get that famous throwaway line, “We’ll look into it.”  Funnily enough these are the same managers that invite your suggestions or feedback for improvement only to ignore them!  Sometimes there’s even a nice little box where you can put your comments… Just to give you a bit of false hope that things may change.
  5. The YES Man (or woman) – If you’re working for a YES Man it’s excruciatingly frustrating!  They won’t make a decision, they’re always REACTIVE because of poor planning, you don’t know if you’re coming or going due to constantly changing priorities and you end up with work from other departments because your boss CAN’T SAY NO.

Now the good news…

If you’re stuck in a Toxic Team, there is a way out – outperform and outproduce your way out of it!


I mean that – if you can totally outperform your toxic team members, someone who come and snatch you away – either another department of better yet – a headhunter (recruiter)!

The key is to document what you’re doing so you have PROOF of your PERFORMANCE and results and making sure it’s as public and noticeable as possible – so the interested parties who are searching for talent can find you.

Some bad news…

Chances are if your team’s toxic, there’s not much you can do to change it – you want to LEAVE it as quickly as possible, either within the same organisation or another company.

Toxic Teams are like cancer – once they infiltrate their way in, there’s almost no chemotherapy available to eradicate it.

Sorry, but that’s the truth.

Inverview Tip: How To Prevent The Bad Hire

Let’s face it – no one enjoys interviews. They’re awkward, stressful and time consuming. In many (but not all) hiring cases, they’re a necessity.

This cartoon is a funny example to illustrate how you can create a memorable interview that reveals if the person you want to hire is right for the job. It’s both a metaphor as well as a practical example. In this instance it’s appropriate if you’re hiring for a position that requires the person to be able to read instructions, have manual dexterity and patience!

Interview Question, How To Interview, Interview Tip

When I was in the printing industry, I had 3 or 4 specific tasks I would give a candidate at the first interview. All the tasks were designed to weed out the inexperienced or unskilled who “oversold” their abilities by revealing their deficiencies.

For example, I would ask them to open a ream of paper – if they proceeded to peel open the wrapping paper, I would stop them and end the interview.

I would ask them to stack a pile of a few hundred A4 sheets that had been collated, but were not neatly stacked. (There is a specific strategy to do this.)

These are revelatory and instantly assessable – they are pass/fail with no grey area for misinterpretation.

Every industry, profession, trade or process has tell-tale habits and techniques that you can use to quickly assess a person’s skills, abilities and aptitudes.

Ideally, you create 3 or 4 to ensure that the analysis is multi-dimensional. In my case, I had 4 tasks and a candidate had to pass 3 out of 4 to continue to the second, short list interview.

I worked for an IT company that had a technical proficiency test that you had to get 17 out of 20 to proceed to a second interview. PhDs would often struggle, obtain a score of 15 or 16 and would be rejected – to their utter bewilderment.

A process is a process and if it works to acquire the skills, aptitudes and capabilities you’re looking for – stick with it!

Of course there are thousands of personality and behavioural tests that can complement this approach, but that’s a discussion for another blog post!