Have you ever wondered why toxic colleagues become professionally successful? A study finds the answer
In the workplace, we encounter different types of people or co-workers. While some are sincere and hardworking, a few would just do the bare necessary work in the office and spend their time in idle gossip or doing nothing. There is another type of colleagues whose toxic habits at the workplace like deceiving, unfair treatment towards other colleagues etc., can hamper other co-workers’ performance and affect their mental health in the long run.
While most people are likely to identify a toxic person, what comes as a surprise is that their unprofessional behaviour goes unnoticed by the boss or the team leader. As a result, these ‘toxic’ people in the office are often seen climbing the professional ladder of success quite fast and aggressively. You are not alone if you have often wondered why toxic colleagues in the office become professionally successful. A recent study has found an answer to this mystery that baffles a lot of professionals.
As per a study, conducted at the University of Bonn in Germany, social skill is the key to a toxic person’s success in the professional world. The study was led by Dr Mareike Kholin, Bastian Kuckelhaus and Dr. Gerhard Blickle and team; they defined toxic personality as ‘a term used to collectively describe a person who behaves greedily, immodestly and unfairly and takes the truth very lightly.’
According to Dr. Mareike Kholin, the lead author of the study, toxic co-workers who were socially skilled or proficient were valued by their superiors and their bosses considered them more capable than others and were given higher hierarchical positions. These people do not take much time to bond with people across all departments in an office, they are very friendly, charming and are easy to talk to. “Having a social skill, in general, is a good thing at the workplace, as it helps to open locked doors and to help cope with daily stress. However, mastering the very same social skill can also be used to deceive others, or break someone’s trust,” read the published report.“We have to get used to the idea that social skills can be a double-edged sword,” says Kholin.
According to the research team, in personality tests, toxic persons have low scores in the categories of honesty and modesty. “Such personalities tend to focus on themselves all the time.Good social skills enable them to deceive others,” said Dr. Gerhard Blickle.
On the other hand, those who are distinctly honest and modest are a real joy for their team: Such individuals behave fairly and allow colleagues to share in their successes. Psychologists from the University of Bonn investigated the phenomenon by interviewing various work teams, accessed their behavioural patterns and collected data from a total of 203 of employees, colleagues and superiors.
The results showed that workers with low values for honesty and modesty can nonetheless succeed in their careers if they balance the toxic parts of their personality with social skills. Bastian Kuckelhaus: “Trickery, disguise and deception are the dark sides of social skills.”
“In order to slow down the ascent of toxic personalities, more attention should be paid to actual performance and less to the good impression when selecting staff and making assessments,” advises Prof. Blickle. This is particularly difficult in activities where it is important to impress and arouse interest, such as in sales or leadership positions. “Here, it makes sense for instance to also look at the sickness and notice rate of employees or customer loyalty,” Blickle adds.