We live in a world filled with other living human beings. We can do our best to avoid, ignore, engage, enjoy, and even co-exist with one another. Some people are friendly, and others are toxic. In this blog post, I will do my best to support you in learning how to spot toxic people. Learning this skill is critical for every human being. Why? We only have one life to live in this body and mind. Everyone deserves and wants to live their best life here on Earth. Of course, we do. After all, every day, we write a new chapter in the story of our life. Sometimes we write stories with other people, but the stories we write should allow us to fulfill our dreams and live beautiful lives. When we do not know how to spot toxic people, we are open and vulnerable to attack. I am not here to scare anyone; just being honest. Because your life matters, and the people around us impact our lives, I grew up in a toxic home environment, dated toxic people, worked for toxic employers and with toxic employees, AND did my best to raise two children living with a toxic person. Toxic people are my people. Sorry to confess, but that was normal for me growing up. If I had known what I know now when I was in high school, college, or in my 20s, my life would be completely different. All the chapters and people in the story of life would be written differently. I cannot rip out the pages and chapters of my life because I wouldn’t say I like the story that has been written in time. I can only write my life’s story today—this day, which is new, bright, beautiful, and full of possibilities. You would not be listening to me or reading this blog post if I did not have those tear-stained chapters in the story of my life. Therefore, I must assume that all the torture and hell I experienced in my lifetime of dealing with toxic people led me to this work. I want everyone to live a beautiful life and to understand one another better. I could have given up on humanity and become bitter and angry at the world and life, but then I would be giving up on LOVE. That’s why resilience matters. When life is hard, we must be resilient, courageous, brave, fearless, and forgiving. Our lives are not set in stone, nor are our family or friends. There is love, and then there is conditional love. How much abuse does one tolerate before they do a toxic relationship detox? And this toxic relationship detox can be with an employer, friend, family member, coworker, or lover. There are always forks in the road and detours. Your life can change today because you have free will and options. So, I will get rather deep and personal here, but I believe you will get the messages. So, let’s begin.
Learning how to spot toxic people
When someone does not know how to spot toxic people, it can be like walking mindlessly throughout life. You might be like me, surrounded by toxic people and knowing no other way of living. People might say one is naïve, innocent, stupid, vulnerable, or misled. I sure was. Naïve means lack of experience, wisdom, or judgment. I have decided to focus on two main subjects – career and relationships. Why? Everyone on this planet needs and wants the two same things in life. We all want and need money to survive. Therefore, we need a career and job to provide us with money because not everyone is born into a wealthy family. Secondly, we all want, need, and dream of someone loving us unconditionally. Remember, we are writing a story of our lives and nobody else’s. This is your life. How do you want to live it? Do you want to be able to deal with toxic people or still allow them to control and wreak havoc on your life story? You must do what is right for you. Currently, students are graduating from high school or college. Now, they will be writing the stories of their lives in finding a career. All those hopes and dreams. It must be exciting. Therefore, let me give you four examples of the life story of Sam’s career because everyone could and can live one of these life stories.
Example One: Sam gets a job right after college. The employer is fair, honest, and trustworthy and treats employees respectfully. Sam loves his job and thrives. He moves up within the company and makes a place for himself in his career choice. This healthy work environment and employer support one’s overall well-being, happiness, and success in life. When Sam retires, he feel good about the 35 years he invested in the company and his career choice. He lived a good life. He takes excellent care of their body and does things that bring him peace of mind and happiness.
Example Two: Sam gets a job right after college. The employer is demanding and difficult to please. Sam’s new boss is harsh, loud, quick to anger, and uses manipulation and guilt tactics. Sam struggles with self-esteem issues from all the mental and emotional abuse he faces daily at work. Sam doesn’t understand his toxic employer and does not realize that he cannot spot toxic people. Sam stays with this employer because the pay and benefits are fantastic, but he hates his job. Years go by, and he has developed anxiety and depression and picked up some addictive behaviors such as overeating, drinking, smoking, and gambling. Sam hates his life and career choice. Sam hits an emotional wall when his employer threatens to fire him after his boss puts Sam in a double bind situation. Sam went to human resources to complain but did not get the expected response. Instead of his boss being written up, human resources told him that their hands were tied. Sam’s boss brings in the money and they cannot afford to lose him. Therefore, human resources advised Sam to seek outside support to better manage Sam’s emotions and current situation. So, Sam seeks help because the unhealthy work conditions and environment impact his work performance and mental health. In therapy, Sam learns the glossary of toxic relationship terms. He realizes that his employer is a difficult person, high conflict, a grandiose narcissist, and a toxic person. Sam is no longer in the dark and does not take his boss’s behaviors personally. He realizes that he will never be able to appease or satisfy his boss fully. Now when the employer uses manipulation games and tries to bait Sam into working overtime for free, Sam knows how to respond instead of reacting out of confusion, fear, humiliation, or guilt. Sam decides to look for another job because he realizes that working for this type of employer is toxic, is robbing him of genuinely living a joyful life, and has given them high blood pressure. Sam eventually finds another job and an employer that treats them fairly, like in example one.
Example Three: Sam gets a job right after college. The employer is hard to please, harsh, loud, quick to anger, and uses manipulation and guilt tactics. Sam stays with this employer because the pay and benefits are fantastic, but he hates the job. Years go by, and identity erosion has settled in. Sam is no longer a smiling, happy person. He feels like a failure and struggles with self-esteem and self-worth. Sam has developed anxiety and depression and picked up some addictive behaviors such as overeating, drinking, smoking, and gambling. He hates his and career choice. Sam does not seek help because the unhealthy work conditions and environment have impacted him in a negative manner mentally and emotionally. Sam ends up feeling like a victim and play the victim role well. Life sucks and has no meaning. Sam feels trapped, hopeless, and miserable. Thirty years go by, and Sam finally retires. Even though he has retired, Sam is still not happy with life. He cannot find much joy or happiness in general. He thinks and feels like life handed him a short stick when he did not know that healthier options were available. Sam did not have to stay stuck working for an abusive employer. Instead, he chose money over peace of mind and an enjoyable life.
Example Four: Sam gets a job right after college. In the beginning, he struggles to find the right fit. He knows how to spot toxic people. He has learned how to adapt, communicate, and accept toxic people. He knows life is a series of stepping stones. He does his best to get along with his employers and employees but is always aware of how people impact his life and well-being. Sam is selective with his friends and life choices. Even though Sam has worked for various employers, he remembers that this is his life. He has a choice. Therefore, Sam stays calm and respects himself when his boss or coworkers do not. Threats and mind games only trigger Sam to walk away. He realizes that he cannot change anyone, only himself. Therefore, he moves on when the abuse tactics are no longer tolerable or manageable. Sam’s enjoyment in life and peace of mind matters more to him than stats, wealth, or popularity. Sam refuses to be domesticated into submission or to allow someone to control his life choices.
Learning how to spot toxic people
Sam had four different career options along the journey of life. How we think, feel, and handle life’s events matters. Knowledge is power. As a global whole, we can no longer ignore how damaging these toxic people can be upon a dozen naïve people. And I am using the term “a dozen” lightly. Because one toxic person in one lifetime can damage or destroy over dozen lives. One person and many lives were altered forever. We must acknowledge how much power each of us has over another person. We can lift someone up or destroy them. And trust me, there are toxic people out there who would gain great pride and satisfaction from destroying another human being’s career. It is truly sick, but this is the world we live in.
How to spot toxic people in employment
Since a large population of society needs employment to survive, I want to give you a list of how to spot toxic people when it comes to work. And to be fair, everyone can become toxic. For example, I have been sick lately. It’s an allergy session, and it sucks. When someone doesn’t feel well, is over-stressed, overworked, and at the end of their mental and emotional rope, they can snap. We can get angry and say toxic things that we later regret. These examples are not set in stone. We all have our good days and bad days. We are finding a sense of balance matters when we engage with one another. Therefore, I will give examples of bosses and coworkers. These examples should support you in learning how to spot toxic people.
How to spot toxic people in employment
- A no-win situation where someone is manipulated into having to choose between two bad options.
- Nonexistent personal boundaries.
- Excessively involved and invested in one another.
- Receiving a false apology that deflects guilt or responsibility from the guilty party onto the person who was wronged.
- Coworkers who are recruited to do someone else’s dirty work and who pull the victim back into a negative cycle if they begin to pull away.
- One who is being emotionally and mentally manipulated to make you question or doubt your work, skills and abilities, motives, experiences, perceptions, or beliefs.
- Explosive personality or quick to anger.
- Never accept responsibility for one’s actions or lack of action.
- Focused solely on external measures of wealth, status, and popularity, instead of being a decent human being.
- Your self-confidence and self-worth have significantly decreased since you got hired because of how you are treated.
- Your are struggling with identity erosion since you started working for this new employer.
- Life has lost its joy and meaning since working for a toxic employer.
- The abuser beats a person up, doesn’t apologize, and tries to convince their victim that they have changed. When in fact, when the victim returns, the abusive behavior resumes.
- When you were first hired, you were the golden child. Now you are a failure, disappointment, incompetent, lazy, and live in the fear of being fired every day.
- A coworker steals your idea, work, spotlight, new promotion, or status with your boss.
- The abuser receives pleasure or amusement from the pain they cause others.
- Your boss or a coworker that needs excessive praise and admiration. When you don’t show it, they think you are jealous or envious of their success. Now they don’t like you.
- There is a consistent pattern of manipulation, abusive, and controlling behaviors.
- A pattern of ignoring unresolved conflict by pretending nothing happened and failing to acknowledge any pain or harm caused during the conflict.
- You feel like the scapegoat within the company.
- The boss or a coworker wants to punish you by spreading malicious rumors about other people in order to turn others against them.
- You notice you are consistently being baited or set up to take the fall.
- Refuses to engage in conversations to resolve a conflict.
- You are given the silent treatment after you have been abused and the abuser plays the victim.
- A person stuck in self loathing or shame. They use others into a nurturing, protective, and caretaking position without dealing with their own issues.
- Making you as an example of disappointment in front of your coworkers or clients.
- You are promised a promotion or raise for working extra hard on a project or landing a new client, but there is always an excuse for why you did not get it.
- Your pay is constantly being docked for stupid immature situations or events.
- You are given ultimatums often when it comes to doing something below yourself or humiliating in a way that gives your boss or coworker fulfilment and satisfaction in your humiliations. Either do it or quit your job.
- Being forced to lie to an new client or asked to do something that is immoral or unethical.
- Being sexually harassed on a regular basis.
- You discover you are the office joke, and your coworkers treat you differently now that you have been smeared.
- You are given a project to complete at the last minute, and your job is on the line if you do not complete it yourself – without additional support from coworkers.
- A coworker is not a team player.
- Your boss or a worker is passive-aggressive when you make a mistake.
- You feel like you are walking on eggshells on a daily basis.
- You are afraid to speak up because you are always teased or ignored.
- You are never given the credit you deserve for all your hard work.
- You are regularly forced to work overtime without pay or some compensation.
- Your vacation plans are ruined because your employer demands to stay and work.
- Your holiday is ruined because your boss or coworker demands you put work above your happiness, without the promise of compensation or pay.
- You were hired to work day shift, and now your boss has put you on the night shift without advance notice, explanation, or warning. Either you do it or you are out of a job.
- Your boss or coworker is not solution oriented and instead stays stuck in blame.
- Your boss or coworker struggles to agree to disagree during conflicts.
- You are being forced to take sides and no longer speak or associate with someone you like. If you do, you will regret it.
- You are being threatened or blackmailed.
- You always look over your shoulder, expecting the worst to happen next.
- You overhear a coworker bad-mouthing you, and you know they are doing it to get a reaction out of you. If you react and the gossip queen plays the victim, and you are the abuser because you got upset, this is considered reactive abuse.
I hope these examples will support you in learning how to spot toxic people. Next time, I will discuss tricks toxic people play upon others in relationships.