In the new world in which we are all living, video conferencing (perhaps via Zoom) has become commonplace. What this means for managers is that we are having to use our manager skills to adjust to a new way of working. Since we are responsible for our teams, this means that we are responsible for how they communicate via tools such as Zoom. It turns out that what we need to be on the lookout for are team members who are behaving badly while Zooming. Before we can take action, we first have to know what we are looking for.
The Problem With Bad Team Members
Back when millions of employees began working from home to slow the spread of Covid-19, our work culture went home with them. Toxic environments that had been found in uncivil behaviors in break rooms and gossipy cubicles moved into team member’s’ homes. For team members in toxic cultures characterized by mean, aggressive, and controlling coworkers, those behaviors came home with them as well. Team members now find themselves in the uncomfortable position of feeling unsafe and unsure about how to react over a computer screen to patronizing language, passive-aggressive comments, or regular interruptions. The ripple effects of toxic-coworkers behaviors in virtual settings can produce drastic negative effects on how team members perform. To expose what may be happening in your team right now, here’s what you need to use your manager training to pay attention to:
Team Members Who Only Want Things Their Way
Toxic coworkers demand that things go their way all the time. And when a situation doesn’t go their way, they of course don’t have the capacity to handle the problem without causing more problems. As an example, if team members propose a better solution to a business challenge during a videoconference, toxic coworkers will try to bully their way into changing their minds and ridicule their rationale, on the spot. This can spoil team building opportunities. Uninhibited emotions show up much easier over a computer screen when they operate through dominant behaviors like bullying. This “my way or the highway” campaign may later manifest in private virtual meetings where toxic coworkers will divide and conquer by attempting to turn team members against one another.
Coworkers Who Put Other People Down
As a manager, you need to pay attention to the tone and subject matter used by team members in virtual meetings. If they speak negatively and badmouth other people in the presence of the team, you can bet that they’ll be doing the same about you when they are in front of other people. The first clue that you are working with a toxic team member is the negative energy they bring with them to videoconferences.
Team Members Who Can’t Stop Talking About Themselves
Toxic team members may start virtual meetings by getting straight down to business and leaving people tense and on-edge. They won’t check in and ask how their other team members are doing, or demonstrate any empathy for the current WFH challenges posed by the pandemic. Toxic coworkers are selfish by nature and only concerned with having bottom-line conversations that concern or benefit them.
Coworkers Who Express How They Really Feel With Poor Body Language
Becoming more aware of your own body language can certainly help managers communicate more effectively. Watch for these signs by toxic team members during video conferences:
- They lack good eye contact and avoid looking directly into the camera or even roll their eyes in a passive-aggressive fashion to show displeasure.
- They can be seen on camera folding their arms, which comes across as being closed off, uninterested, or disengaged.
- During a video conference they don’t nod when being spoken to, which would help others feel more connected and relaxed. A lack of timely nodding with a straight face to a good idea or suggestion signifies that they have poor listening skills, that they’re silently disagreeing, judging, or making the other person feel wrong.
- They lack smiling genuinely. To communicate right off the bat that you’re safe and approachable in the virtual presence of your team, a good team member starts off with a smile. Toxic coworkers rarely do.
Coworkers Who Are Rude
In virtual meetings, toxic coworkers may abruptly cut off their team members as they present a view or idea that doesn’t align with their own. A toxic coworker may deliberately shut others down if he or she doesn’t like their opinions.
What All Of This Means For You
It would be nice to think that now that everyone is working from home, a lot of the problems that had existed between the members of your team would have gone away. However, it turns out that what managers need to be aware of is that issues between team members have not gone away, they’ve just found a new place to live: video conferences. As managers it is our responsibility to be aware of how our team members are interacting and to step in if there are any issues.
One of the things that toxic team members don’t realize is that things won’t always go their way. They need to learn how to deal with situations in which they don’t get their way. Managers can spot toxic coworkers when they see them putting other team members down. Team members that you really don’t want to have on your team are the ones who like to spend a lot of time talking about themselves. These are the same team members who generally have poor body language. Finally, managers have to keep an eye out for the members of their team who may be rude to others.
As managers we need to understand that the current work from home situation provides us with a unique opportunity. Interactions between team members that we might have missed if we were in the office have now become visible to us during our video conferences with our team. We need to keep our eyes open and detect when we are dealing with toxic coworkers. Knowing that you have an issue is the first step. Once you have this knowledge, it’s going to be up to you to find ways to fix it.
– Dr. Jim Anderson
Blue Elephant Consulting –
Your Source For Real World IT Management Skills™
Question For You: What do you think a manager should do if they discover that they have a toxic coworker on their team?
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What We’ll Be Talking About Next Time
There is no question about it: we are currently living in a time of almost unimaginable grief. There are always things that are making the members of your team feel sad and down. However, with the arrival of the Covid-19 pandemic and the death and destruction that has come along with it, we are all feeling even more emotionally battered than ever before. As a manager who is responsible for a team of workers, you need to use your manager skills to understand what your team is currently going through. It is going to be up to you to help the members of your team deal with the grief that they are currently experiencing and help them to find a way to move forward.