Toxic Colleagues – are they a thing of the past?

ei Feb 06, 2020

We’ve all experienced difficult co-workers - the ones only interested in themselves, taking credit for other people’s work and constantly looking for promotion over others.  

Generally speaking, it’s someone who is unaware of the effect of their behavior on others – they can be snappy and unpleasant, without any regard for those around them.  At one time these traits would show ambition, and the sheer will to succeed would be rewarded, but less so now.  As we move into the next decade of the 21st century, our rapidly changing world of work now values skills such as collaboration, creativity, emotional intelligence and good communication skills.

Why is this?  Well for one, in a more globalized society, we are often working in virtual teams across borders with people from different cultures.  It’s so easy to get it wrong if we don’t consciously adapt our behavior.  There is so much room for misunderstanding through the use of technology, that we have to be even more ‘human’ in our communication with others. 

How often have we received an email or text which could be misconstrued as being aggressive or rude?  If we are unable to address issues face-to-face with colleagues, a team both real and virtual can quickly disintegrate.  If team members don’t like working with a particular person, they will try to avoid interaction, and so the team no longer functions effectively.

Leadership gurus have taken this one step further, suggesting that even top performers should be asked to leave if their colleagues find them difficult to work with.  This might be difficult to actually do, if the said colleague is improving the bottom line of the company, but as Gary Vaynerchuk, CEO of media company Vayner X explains in this link, toxic behavior is like cancer which grows, and it could be that others are leaving because of this one individual.

This change in consensus also ties in with the flatter management structures which are now commonplace within businesses.  There is far less ‘top-down’ management, so collaborative teams are even more important to the success of the company.  Another key component of a successful team is its ability to come up with creative ideas and problem-solving

This is a knock-on effect of the rise of Machine Learning and Artificial Intelligence, as ‘human skills’ become a key factor in the success of companies.  Ideas generation and complex problem solving are essential for the future success of a company. 

Look how many companies have had to radically adapt their business model, seemingly overnight if they cannot adapt to technological change for instance – the hotel industry, taxi services, online shopping, photo printing, cameras – all have had to adapt how they operate when faced with major innovation.  In light of these changes, the more effective the team, the more resilient the company becomes. 

It’s not just the employees who have to be more collaborative, but the leaders too.  The World Economic Forum examined the skills needed for those in charge as we enter the 4th Industrial Revolution. Click here to read more about this.

All this means that in the future, rather than just looking after your own interests, employees will be rewarded for their ability to function well in groups, share knowledge and generate ideas for the collective.  The good news is, that these skills can be learned through online training such as ours. 

The first step is awareness, developing your emotional intelligence by consciously thinking about the impact you are having on others.  The online courses, based on the World Economic Forum’s findings, also cover topics such as creativity, collaboration, complex problem solving and communication, all of which are essential for the new industrial age.

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