Thoughts about hr and management in the real world – extra information I couldn't fit in my books!.

How toxic people can be good for you

I’ve had a number of toxic people in my life. People who make your life miserable or who create awful places to work.

This includes the HR Manager who read mine and the HR teams email so she could see everything we were sending. Who set up a desk with her back to her office door, but with a mirror angled so she could see if we walked past.

Or the Managing Director who liked to drop people in it without any training or support to see who could sink or swim. Who issued conflicting mandates to people to see how they coped.

The bullies. The harassers. The incredibly negative people. Those who undermine you and take credit for what you’ve done.

You don’t want these people in your life.

They can cause you extreme mental anguish, stress, depression and misery. But ironically after battling with this idea over the last few weeks (isn’t the new year a great time for reflection?), I’ve come to believe these people can be incredibly good for you.

They can push you to achieve things you never thought possible. They can throw your life in a new direction that turns out to be better than before. They can give you skills you otherwise wouldn’t have.

That Managing Director who left me to sink and banned my HR Assistant from helping me? After nine months working 60 to 80 hour weeks trying to build an entire HR and L&D department, I asked him for one day off in lieu. He said no. I broke down and cried my eyes out and had to have two weeks off work due to stress. But I learned how to prioritise. No more 80 hour weeks for me. I learned how to recognise a toxic situation and get out of it.

Years later when I took a role in a contact centre company, and in the month between taking the job and when I started, they restructured (without any consultation) and appointed a less qualified person above me, I knew it was going to be a bad place to be. And so after three days I resigned. I gave three months notice as there was an interesting project I wanted to work on but knowing I was leaving, I could easily cope with the toxicity.

Being sued by an organisation I had tried so hard to help, has caused me to suffer from anxiety, panic attacks and depression over the last 2 years. Now I’ve recovered I find I know a lot about the New Zealand legal system and have now created a global business with Elephant and Management Bites – meaning we can live in the UK and California some of the year.

That’s not to say those people shouldn’t atone for what they’ve done, and if it’s in your control you may be able to work on that, but otherwise maybe it really is a gift in disguise. People did tell me this when I was deep in the midst of my anxiety and depression and I thought it was rubbish. But having come through it I now see what they meant.

So if you’re working with a toxic person or have someone in your life making you miserable, however hard it is, it well end up a fantastic opportunity. Make sure that it doesn’t kill you and you may find it takes you somewhere new and even better. Strange but true!

I’d love to hear if anyone else has experienced this and agrees or if you think toxic people should be avoided at all costs….

Angela Atkins is an owner of Elephant Group and Management Bites International. She is the best selling author of the ‘Bites‘ books. She will next be speaking at the HR Advisors Conferences in Wellington and Auckland in a few weeks time.

One comment on “How toxic people can be good for you

  1. Tracy
    January 15, 2017

    Good post Angela – I too have worked with someone who was toxic, in fact I would have called them narcissistic. It wasn’t until I was able to remove myself from their sphere that I could look back and learn from the experience and understand what to look for in others with those tendancies. I agree that I learnt much from the experience, however, would never want to be in that situation again. Thanks for sharing.

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This entry was posted on January 15, 2017 by in culture, Leadership, mental health and tagged , , .
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