If you or your employees exhibit toxic personality traits like procrastination, micromanagement, or knowledge hoarding, your business could suffer.
Let me set expectations right now: this isn’t a quiz you can take to find out what TV show or movie character you are. And no, it’s not an article that’ll help you find out why your relationships are going wrong.
Here’s what it is: a business article. Because, hey, business is full of different personalities working together. And if you’re a business owner, you don’t want certain toxic personality traits to turn away employees, customers, investors, and other owners.
I’m not here to judge personalities. But what I am here to do is share what I’ve seen work and not work from business leaders and co-workers.
Toxic personality traits in business
If you or your employees have any of the following personality traits, you could be costing your business time and money. Not to mention, these toxic traits could increase employee turnover or customer churn and risk investment opportunities.
There are many different toxic traits that can creep up, but these are the ones I tend to see most impact businesses.
Procrastinators tend to wait until the last possible minute to accomplish something. If you or your employees have this trait, you or they might put off finishing projects, answering customers, doing training, etc.
I think it’s safe to say everyone has procrastinated at least once in their life. In fact, 95% of people procrastinate occasionally. I’ve noticed that many procrastinators are hard-working perfectionists that wait until the last minute so something can be, well, perfect.
Unfortunately, the procrastinator personality type isn’t just toxic—it’s also costly. The average worker wastes 2.09 hours per day on the job (yikes!). And you could directly cost your business money if you start procrastinating certain tasks. Take payroll tax deposits and reports, for instance. You procrastinate sending those to the IRS, and you could wind up with some hefty failure-to-deposit penalties.
Long story short, if you or your employees have procrastination tendencies, you could end up with wasted hours, messy processes, extra expenses, and some pretty disgruntled parties.
To combat procrastination, try to focus on one task at a time, get more sleep, and try out new ways to motivate yourself (e.g., exercise during lunch).
A strong business needs leaders, not followers. It needs creativity and innovation, not more of the same. And, it thrives on different viewpoints, not like-minded robots. And that, dear readers, is why “the yes-man/woman” is a toxic personality trait in business.
The last thing you want is employees who are so concerned with kissing up to you that they don’t contribute any ideas of their own. And what’s the point of hiring your own personal fan club?
So if you see the yes-man/woman personality creeping in your business, squash it. Encourage your employees to speak up, have strong back-and-forth dialogue, and even get into friendly debates on why something could or couldn’t work.
Before my accounting software and payroll company, Patriot Software, went remote in 2020, I always had a literal open-door policy. This still stands, although the communication may be through Zoom or email. This way, my coworkers know they can come to me with their ideas and tell me why they disagree with mine. True teamwork builds off of ideas; it doesn’t applaud stagnation.
The always right
So, we’ve covered the yes-man/woman. On the opposite end of the spectrum is the worker who’s always right. If an employee (or you!) thinks they’re always right, how can your business grow?
It can’t, which is why “the always right” personality is dangerous in business. An arrogant personality in your business can:
To put it bluntly, someone who thinks they’re always right can really put a wrench in your business plans. If you want to combat this type of personality, encourage leaders in your business to listen to their team and be willing to try new things. And of course, one way to encourage this is to lead by example.
Do this. No, not that. More like how you had it before. Oh, do you want me to just show you?
That’s the sound of a micromanager. Not really conducive to employee growth, autonomy, and morale, is it?
The micromanager is someone who has to either:
A micromanager can be frustrating to work with. Not to mention, they can stifle creativity and business growth. If you have a micromanager (or are one yourself), encourage them to let go and give employees more authority over projects.
The knowledge hoarder
Employees hoard knowledge for all sorts of reasons: job security, recognition, promotions. Before I started Patriot Software, I worked at a company where many employees hoarded knowledge, either accidentally or in order to get ahead -- myself included.
Fortunately, I now know how detrimental knowledge hoarding can be for a business and its success. A knowledge-hoarding employee won’t always be around. What happens if they take a vacation, have a family emergency, or even quit?
Encourage your employees to, as I like to say, crumple their paper empires and share knowledge with one another. After all, you need team members who are willing to work together and grow leaders.To encourage knowledge sharing, you can give employees an accessible knowledge base and get everyone involved in training new hires.
Here’s what you DO need from yourself and your team
Business success doesn’t follow a simple recipe. Yanking out toxic traits alone won’t get you and your team where you need to be for success and growth.
But when it comes to personality, there’s one key trait that contributes to the success of your team and your business itself:
I often talk to my co-workers about how important it is for everyone in my company to have a servant’s heart. What does that mean? That we are attentive to everyone around us—customers and fellow co-workers. This kind of selfless attitude is what sets leaders apart from followers and creates a work culture where employees thrive and customers’ needs are put first.
And it all starts with humility. I aim to exercise humility in each aspect of business and encourage my co-workers to do the same. Humble employees give their time, care about those around them, and kick arrogance to the curb.
That’s what I look for in my co-workers, what I expect from myself, and what customers need from a trusted business brand.
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