If two businesses are pretty much the same, why would anybody work for or buy from the one run by a jerk?
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The success of a business is due in large part to the personalities of the people who run it. You can have the most amazing, innovative ideas, but if you have a toxic personality that repels even your most loyal customers and most diligent employees, you may be singlehandedly costing your business time and money.
As a manager or leader in your business, it’s important to recognize that you wield influence over your company, which can either help make or break your business. Much of that impact comes from how you communicate and interact with others. Are you projecting the qualities that make others want to work to build your company… or work at finding another job?
Take a hard look at your qualities and personality traits. Are you doing more harm than good? If you find you’re harboring any of the following 11 toxic personality traits, it’s time to make some serious changes.
1. Low emotional intelligence.
In a nutshell, having low emotional intelligence, or EQ, is toxic for business as it affects everyone you come in contact with. EQ is often just as important as your actual IQ (or raw intelligence). EQ helps you understand others and recognize what motivates them. A strong EQ is the foundation for working cooperatively with a group and creating a sense of cohesion at work.
Low EQ leads to poor communication skills. It damages your credibility and makes others feel less confident in you. When you’re emotionally intelligent, you’re aware of your emotions, as well as the feelings and needs of those around you. Having a high EQ helps you manage social situations and relationships, and enables you to regulate your emotions accordingly.
Related: Why Emotional Intelligence Is Crucial for Success (Infographic)
2. Chronic sarcasm.
A little bit of sarcasm can come across as funny at times, but if you live to spout sarcastic comments, you may be unwittingly creating a toxic environment. This is especially true if you focus your snark on belittling others or enjoy giving backhanded comments to subordinates.
If you think your constant sarcastic comments are scoring points or making you look smart, think again. Sarcasm makes you seem bitter, angry and arrogant. Try being nice. Treat everyone with a level of decorum and respect. Resist the urge to chide others or throw verbal zingers to get a laugh at someone else’s expense.
The ability to think on your feet and be open to suggestions and ideas is crucial to being able to adapt to unexpected changes in any business. When you’re too rigid in your thinking and decision-making, you can inadvertently limit your options or be unable to make quick adjustments as needed -- and this will adversely affect your business.
Yes, planning and scheduling are a necessary part of any business, but you also need to weigh the importance of following through with a particular strategy or method versus what you may gain (or lose) by sticking to your guns. Any successful company will sometimes need to exercise flexibility and find creative solutions in unexpected situations. Work to be part of the solution, not the problem.
Related: The 5 Worst Leadership Qualities: How Many Does Your Boss Have?
4. Not following through.
Failed promises and flaky leadership diminish your credibility with those you work with. If you want to preserve your influence and earn the respect of others, you’re going to need to learn to follow through and follow up.
That means being dependable, hearing others out and acting with integrity. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. And just as important, work to build trust and mutual respect with colleagues, employees, clients and customers. Support those around you, be there for them, and you will earn yourself and your business a loyal following.
The success or failure of a business is often based on timing -- knowing when to leap and when to stand back, analyze and consider your options. But making these decisions requires an ability to step back and have the patience to contemplate the bigger picture.
Business is a balancing act of aggressiveness and reservation. Impatience can lead to hasty decisions that lock you into a bad arrangement. Being determined and eager is a good thing; being rash and making snap decisions is not.
6. Being a control freak.
We usually assume that the most successful people in business are those who have all their ducks in a row -- they have a meticulous plan and know exactly where each decimal goes. But if everything is perfectly lined up, you’re only allowing yourself to see as far as the end of that list. Anything beyond those computations or conclusions is also beyond you and your control, and this can leave you flailing.
Being a control freak hampers your ability to make quick decisions. You can easily become overwhelmed by your sense of perfectionism and grow frustrated when things don’t go as planned. What if, instead of trying to control everything, you embraced the unpredictable? Give it a try and see how liberating it is to let go.
Related: How to Stop Being A Control Freak
7. Lacking empathy.
It’s easy to feel cynical sometimes, but those who fundamentally lack empathy or fail to show compassion will find their toxic attitude is corrupting their company. Cynicism makes you look defensive and angry. Empathy helps others feel connected and understood. We’re naturally drawn to those who are supportive and seem relatable.
By showing we care and understand what others are going through, we create a supportive atmosphere that draws people in. Empathy and caring make others feel valued, and that makes customers more inclined to stay loyal and employees more inclined to work hard. So, when you feel cynicism creeping in, remember that showing your human side and letting people know you care can also be profitable.
8. Being closed-minded.
Closed-minded people tend to want to point fingers at others rather than accept responsibility when things go wrong. They believe they have the answers to everything, so they have a hard time listening to what others have to say.
No matter how certain you are, make sure you hear others out. Even if your way ends up being the best, you’ll be a better leader and your business will grow if you’re open to hearing other perspectives and suggestions. Seek to be radically open-minded. It may be hard on your ego, but it will shift your whole business perspective. Don’t allow an obstinate or narrow-minded attitude keep you from hearing out-of-the-box ideas and making good decisions.
9. Constant complaining.
Nobody likes a pessimist. If you’re constantly complaining, you’re not only bringing everyone else down, you’re being unproductive and making everyone else more unproductive to boot. Plus, you come across as a high-maintenance whiner.
If you spend all your energy grumbling and lamenting, you’re reinforcing a negative mindset in yourself and driving everyone else away. Pay attention to how often you say negative things. If you can’t get through a conversation without complaining, you have a problem.
Related: How Complaining Rewires Your Brain for Negativity
10. Managing with fear.
Are you a “my way or the highway” type of manager? This mindset is absolutely toxic to businesses. Many leaders use fear-based measures to control others without being aware of what they’re doing. These are the managers who wield a big stick and keep everyone on edge. They use tacit threats and scare tactics to get others to do what they want.
Managing with fear creates a culture based on suspicion and angst, in which no one wants to admit to a mistake, voice disagreement or offer new ideas, all for fear of being rejected or beaten down. Successful companies strive to create a healthy, happy, creative atmosphere where good work can be done and a strong business can be built.
Narcissists are noxious to a business because their enlarged ego keeps them from listening to anyone who contradicts them. They really don’t want to hear what you have to say if you’re not in line with their thinking. Oh, and they’re also completely self-focused. If that’s you, then this is your wake-up call.
Your self-centered ways are not only denying others an opportunity to share possibly inspiring ideas; you’re also hurting your organization and frustrating everyone you work with. Try to think about others every now and then. Your career and your business will thank you.
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