Project Management

Immunize Your Project from Toxic Team Members

Wendy Liberko has more than 15 years of experience designing, delivering and maintaining successful and sustainable global human capital, talent development, and business process compliance solutions. Based in San Diego, she has worked with industry-leading, mid-sized private to Fortune Global 500 organizations in the government services, human capital, healthcare and electronic manufacturing sectors

Much like a flu shot protects you from a specific strain of the flu, this article presents actionable techniques for project managers to take to immunize their team from the negative effects associated with a toxic member. We’ll look at whether or not negative or cynical behavior may be contagious, and discuss when to seek help. This article shares specific examples you may have experienced in the workplace while additionally providing numerous references to actual workplace examples and related articles, such as team communication ground rules and having difficult conversations.

In particular, there are four main focus areas:

  • How to accurately identify if you are dealing with a toxic team member;
  • How to determine actions necessary to alleviate the effects of that person’s behavior;
  • How to be mindful of what the spread of toxic behaviors might look like and what to do about it; and
  • Finally, a look at ways to protect your team against toxic effects going forward.

Everyone wants to make a difference, but what if the lasting impression a team member leaves behind is one that is negative? A year into my job, people are still talking about the lingering effects of a toxic team member who is no longer with the organization. As the new project manager, stories like this remind me that there is an opportunity to immunize my team …

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- Johann Sebastian Bach