I picked up on this slightly superficial US 'lifestyle' post , "8 Toxic Personalities to Avoid" by Brett Blumental, on one of Yahoo!'s many consumer sub sites (Shine/Sheer Balance/Manage your Life) after seeing its popularity rising on del.icio.us.
Although we like to think that the people in our lives are well-adjusted, happy, healthy minded individuals, we sometimes realize that it just isn't so. Personally, I've had moments where I'll be skipping through my day, happy as can be, thinking life is grand and BAM, I'll be blindsided by someone who manages to knock the happy wind out of my sails. Sometimes it is easy to write it off and other times, not so much.
Maybe you are a positive person, but when you are around a certain individual, you feel negative. Or, maybe you have an idealistic view of the world and when you are with certain people, you are made to feel silly, unrealistic or delusional. Or, maybe you pride yourself in being completely independent and in control of your life, but when you are around a certain family member, you regress into a state of childhood.
Some of these situations, and yes, these people, can have a tremendously negative impact on our lives. And, although we are all human and have our 'issues,' some 'issues' are quite frankly, toxic. They are toxic to our happiness. They are toxic to our mental outlook. They are toxic to our self-esteem. And they are toxic to our lives. They can suck the life out of us and even shorten our lifespan
Brett goes on to describe examples of the worst toxic personalities - Manipulative Marys, Narcissistic Nancys, Debbie Downers, Judgmental Jims, Dream Killing Keiths, Insincere Illissas, Disrespectful Dannys and Never Enough Nellies.
There's a massive 1303 comments on the above post as I'm writing this - 'Doktor Eevol' adds "A good article, but you forgot Sexist Stan and Whining Wilma" - and it's obviously struck a nerve, with many people writing lengthy descriptions of their strategies for dealing with poisonous personalities.
Personal & Work Lives
Perhaps one of the reasons for the rise in popularity of social software is the freedom it gives people to fantasize and aggrandize their personal lives.
Like holiday 'round robin letters' to friends, Facebook and in some cases blogging can be an exercise in self reinvention, to put it nicely.
Bumper sticker philosophical proclamations, boasting and public navel gazing have colored many people' s perception of Twitter as an outbound ego megaphone, whether experienced or imagined. (The endless articles about building Twitter follower numbers without any mention of the far more valuable conversational aspects of that medium sadly are reinforcing this).
The use of 'social software' inside companies has an interesting psychological aspect, with people using similar tools to the ones they employ for discussing their personal lives - positive or negative - to collaborate and work together.
All the above toxic personality types and their devious ways of undermining your confidence come into play - add command and control managers, micro, macro, sane and insane to the mix - within the much more claustrophobic work environment.
As I said in my 'Weasels in the Woodwork' post back in March
There’s a great churning complex social sea in many large companies of rivalries, resentments, outright hostility and opportunism. This is the nature of business.
The challenges of working with this 'FaceBook Generation' particularly in light of the rapid exploitation of social networking as a conversational advertising medium, adds to the complexity of clearly differentiating what workplaces collaborative networks are.
Take Brett Blumental's toxic personality number 7...
These people will say or do things at the most inappropriate times and in the most inappropriate ways. In essence, they are more subtle, grown up bullies. Maybe this person is a friend who you confided in and uses your secret against you. Maybe it is a family member who puts their busy-body nose into your affairs when it is none of their business. Or maybe, it is a colleague who says demeaning things to you.
* Why they are toxic: These people have no sense of boundaries and don't respect your feelings or, for that matter, your privacy. These people will cause you to feel frustrated and disrespected.
It's one thing to socialize with your equivalent 'Disrespectful Danny' on your terms, but what happens if he is your superior at work?
How do you encourage people to open up and collaborate online in the face of this type of undermining behavior? There's a whole new era of management tactics needed to get the best out of workforces by leveling the online collaborative playing field, which makes people feel happier, more secure and more productive.
The alternative is limited online collaborative interaction in environments dominated by the more socially inept and noisy personalities in a company, and this is not an effective use of this new medium.
Image: Bully Free Zone® Poster available from Free Spirit Publishing: Meeting Kids Social & Emotional Needs since 1983