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Read time4 mins

What are the characteristics of a toxic person?

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Toxic employees and their counterproductive workplace behaviours

What do we mean by toxic behaviour?

Toxic or negative behaviours can also be described in the workplace as counterproductive work behaviours.

They can fall into two categories. Interpersonal, this is where an individual or a group do bad things to others for instance bullying and sexual harassment or organisational behaviours such as as ignoring company policies or theft.

Let’s look more in-depth at the science of counterproductive work behaviours.

Toxic employees and their counterproductive workplace behaviours

Watch the video to understand the two primary types of toxic workplace behaviours, and what those harmful actions can look like in practise.

Watch the next video in this series here:

Part 2 – Does Genetics Play a Role in Toxic Behaviour?

And if you know of anyone who would benefit from this video, please share it with them.

Video Transcript

Hi, Andrew from SACS, and welcome to video number one in our 11 video series on toxic behaviours at work.

This one is all about what we mean by toxic behaviours, and the word toxic indicates that these behaviours are negative and they fit into something in science which we call counterproductive work behaviours.

So the idea of counterproductive work behaviours are work behaviours which are not productive in terms of their relationship with either human beings or the organisation.

And when you look at the science of counterproductive work behaviours across the world, they really fit into two categories.

Interpersonal and organisational counterproductive behaviours

The first is what’s called interpersonal counterproductive work behaviours and they’re where an individual or a group is doing bad things to other human beings.

So they might be things like bullying, harassment, sexual harassment. It could be ignoring and snubbing people, treating people poorly in other words.

The second type of toxic behaviours are what are called organisational counterproductive work behaviours.

And they could be things like ignoring sensible policies or it could be things like badmouthing the organisation to other people. It could be things like theft, for instance.

So interpersonal and organisational counterproductive work behaviours do tend to correlate.

So if you get large numbers of people, if an individual does one, they are more likely to do the other.

They do correlate quite heavily, but of course there are situations where somebody will be bad to colleagues, but wonderful to the organisation or vice versa. So the two are closely related, but they don’t always, at the individual level, go hand-in-hand.

Current examples

Now people are really interested in toxic behaviours at the moment for really good reasons. And here’s some examples of what’s been seen in recent times in Australia.

Big news for us, so workers in the grip of a bullying epidemic from The Age newspaper. Elon Musk, not an Australian, but across the world being dragged over the coals for having run what’s called a toxic workplace, and HR needs to get better at managing toxic employees in Sydney HRD website. And recent cases from Channel 10, where bullying behaviours were identified and reported.

And finally from the Honourable Madeleine King, MP at the Australian government issues associated with bad behaviours in the mining sector.

There’s a range of these types of behaviours.

So that’s a definition, either interpersonal or organisational counterproductive work behaviours and what we mean by toxic behaviours in this video sequence.

Join us for the next video, because we’ll be talking about what kinds of things, particularly neurological and genetic things make people more likely to undertake these behaviours.

And then from there, we’ll go on to other characteristics like personality.

And we finish up in the series with a bunch of advice in various videos about how to deal with toxic behaviours when they arise.

Watch the next video in this series to find out more about dealing with toxic employees:

Part 2 – Does Genetics Play a Role in Toxic Behaviour?

And if you’d like some help screening future hires for toxic behaviour, contact us about our Psychometric Assessment Tools.

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