The Toxic Grinch: There's one or more in every workplace

We’ve all observed the person who dampens enthusiasm or spoils our enjoyment of work. These folk, whilst few in number, erode workplace culture and they are something of curse for HR professionals given the distractions they engender and the work they create. 

In recent days Fairfax media ran an article in their Executive Style column – How to spot a toxic employee before you hire them. All well and good but somehow they keep popping up and are generally well ensconced in the workplace. So, how do you recognise them? Try the test below, apply the metrics and then you will be in no doubt if there is a Grinch in your midst.

 Choose a person in your workplace you know well and who might qualify and check their level of toxicity.




0        I do not detect this at all

1        I have noted  a hint of this but it’s very much the exception

2        I observe this fairly frequently

3        I observe this all of the time


1   Fails to listen and indeed does not want to hear


2   Pressures and generally harasses others


3   Is unapproachable, remote, reclusive, suspicious and moody


4   Displays aggression when questioned, challenged or threatened


5   Reacts and demonstrates hostility for the slightest of reasons


6   Lacks emotional intelligence


7   Is inconsistent, unpredictable, erratic and lacking in focus


8   Plays games with people and enjoys intrigue


9   Bullies, intimidates, threatens, ridicules and is mean spirited


10  With-holds information and misrepresents


11  Entraps others, feeds off their mistakes. Tells tales and suck-ups to top management


12  Bosses people, engages in constant criticism and personalizes issues


13  Lies, covers up and is untrustworthy


14  Is often sarcastic,  disparaging, condescending and/or patronizing


15  Treats others with contempt, disrespect, discourtesy


16  Runs with their own agendas and promotes themselves


17  Divides, denigrates, insults, undermines (often the boss) and fashions discord


18  Is opportunistic and self-serving


19  Operates on the belief that they are always right


20  Creates and sustains work-place tension and enjoys the fact






0  -   10         You enjoy a colleague free of toxic behavior

11  - 20         You have a colleague who occasionally is toxic

21  - 30         You have a colleague who frequently is toxic

31  - 40         You have an established and seasoned toxic colleague

41 +              You have a serial and chronic toxic colleague who wreaks havoc    

From:  Leadership with a ‘T’   - a forthcoming eBook

 Faulkner is an experienced, semi retired senior executive, HR manager and mentor who is a sometime  contributor to HR Daily. He is finishing up the long awaited eBook on people averse behaviours in our workplaces. He is also an Apps architect that facilitate assessments of one’s fit with work and the character of the employing organisation (a work nearing completion). He welcomes contact related to his content :   tbombsalute(at)


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