Toxic team behavior is any action or attitude that goes against the grain of what it means to be part of a healthy, functional team. It’s disruptive and destructive, and it poisons good team dynamics.

In many organizations, toxic team behavior is tolerated or even encouraged, either because it’s seen as harmless fun or because those in positions of power don’t know how to address it. But the truth is, toxic behavior is corrosive. It erodes trust, destroys morale, and ultimately damages productivity.

IT leaders must be on the lookout for toxic team behavior and be prepared to nip it in the bud before it does irreparable harm.

Toxic team behaviors can take many different forms, but there are seven that tend to crop up most often:

Top View Photo of People Handshaking

Toxic Team Behavior #1: Gossiping

Gossip is the workplace equivalent of a deadly virus, and it can quickly infect an entire team or department. Gossiping can have a number of negative consequences, such as decreased productivity, decreased team morale, and increased conflict. Research has also shown that gossipers are often less liked by their colleagues and are more likely to be seen as untrustworthy.

Leaders should work to identify individuals who gossip and nip the behavior in the bud. Intervene immediately when you see or hear someone gossiping. Make it clear that this is not acceptable behavior in your workplace.

Additionally, he recommends establishing rules and procedures to help prevent and address gossiping, such as requiring employees to report any incidents of gossiping to a supervisor.

Toxic Team Behavior #2. Rudeness

Rudeness is another destructive behavior that can easily poison a workplace. It can take many forms, such as yelling, belittling, or making demeaning comments.

Rude behavior creates an environment of fear, intimidation, and disrespect. It can lead to employees feeling anxious, stressed, and even physically ill. If rudeness is left unchecked, it can quickly escalate into more serious problems, such as harassment or bullying.

“ Research suggests that even mild (i.e., low-intensity) manifestations of rudeness exert powerful effects. For example, exposure to rudeness at work has been linked to depression, stress, and diminished cognitive and behavioral performance. Moreover, rudeness tends to be “contagious”: Its effects ripple to additional victims beyond the immediate target of the rude behavior.”

Binyamin Cooper, Carnegie Mellon University.

If you witness someone being rude, intervene immediately. Address the issue with the offender privately and explain why their behavior is inappropriate and how it’s affecting others. Establish rules and consequences for rudeness, such as requiring offenders to apologize to those they’ve hurt or take a mandatory leave of absence.

Toxic Team Behavior #3. Micromanaging

A telltale sign of a toxic team is when the leader micromanages every aspect of every project. Not only is this frustrating for employees who are trying to do their jobs, but it also creates an environment of fear and distrust.

Micromanagement breeds toxicity by preventing employees from thinking for themselves and taking initiative. It also stifles creativity and innovation. If you’re a manager who tends to micromanage, try to take a step back and give your team members some space to breathe. Allow them to make mistakes and learn from their mistakes.

Here are seven methods for improving your management relationship:

  • Define roles and responsibilities early on
  • Set clear expectations
  • Communicate frequently
  • Encourage independence
  • Allow for mistakes
  • Seek feedback
  • Don’t take things personally

Toxic Team Behavior #4. Taking credit for others’ work

There’s nothing wrong with taking pride in your work, but there’s a line between healthy pride and toxic egotism. Leaders or team members who regularly take credit for the work of others are crossing that line.

Not only is this behavior dishonest, but it also demoralizes team members and makes them feel undervalued. It can also lead to resentment and conflict among team members. If you’re a leader who’s guilty of this behavior, try to be more humble and give credit where it’s due.

How to respond to someone who is taking credit for your work?

  • Confront the person taking credit for your work in a private conversation. Explain how their actions are affecting you and ask them to stop. 
  • If the behavior continues,  documentation may be necessary. You can also talk to your manager or HR if the situation is serious or you don’t feel comfortable confronting the person yourself.

Toxic Team Behavior #5. Withholding information

Withholding information from team members is manipulative behavior that can damage relationships and hinder productivity. When leaders withhold information, it creates an environment of distrust and secrecy. Team members feel like they can’t trust their leader and they start to wonder what else is being kept from them.

If you’re a leader, make it a priority to be transparent with your team. Share information openly and honestly. If you make a mistake, own up to it. Your team members will respect you for your honesty and integrity.

Toxic Team Behavior #6. Sabotage

When employees engage in sabotage, it’s usually a direct result of feeling undervalued or unappreciated. This could manifest itself in many different ways, from an individual going out of their way to make things difficult for others, to more serious acts such as leaking confidential information or stealing company property.

While the initial instinct may be to quickly dispense with anyone caught sabotaging the business, It’s important to take a step back and try to understand what might be motivating this behavior before taking any action. In many cases, it could be that the individual is feeling overwhelmed and thinks this is the only way to get attention. In other cases, they may simply not have the skills required for their role and are looking for an escape route.

How to deal with Sabotage in this situation?

The best way to deal with sabotage is to try to understand the motivations behind it. 

  • Is the individual feeling overwhelmed or undervalued? 
  • Are they in over their head? 

Once you understand the root cause of the problem, you can take steps to address it.

 In some cases, this may mean providing additional training or support. In other cases, it may mean having a difficult conversation about their performance. But all in all 

It’s important to remember that everyone makes mistakes and that there’s always room for improvement.

Toxic Team Behavior #7. Poor communication

Communication is the foundation of any good team, and yet it’s often one of the first things to break down when things start to go wrong. When communication starts to break down, it creates a domino effect that can have a hugely negative impact on the team dynamic. Individuals become siloed, information gets misinterpreted, and tasks get duplicated or forgotten altogether.

To prevent this from happening, it’s recommended to establish clear lines of communication from the outset. This could be something as simple as setting up regular team meetings or using an instant messaging tool like Slack for real-time updates. The key is to make sure everyone is on the same page, and that there’s a clear channel for sharing information.

Bridging the communication gap for a healthier team dynamic!

At Kiimkern, we established a working culture where everyone feels comfortable communicating openly and honestly with each other. We believe that this is the key to a successful team dynamic.

If you’re struggling with communication in your team, we recommend trying out some of the following tips:

  1. Encourage open and honest communication: Make it clear to your team that you encourage open and honest communication. This will help create an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their thoughts and ideas.
  2. Establish ground rules: Establishing ground rules for communication can help ensure that everyone is on the same page. For example, you could agree on a no-interruption rule during team meetings.
  3. Encourage constructive feedback: Feedback is essential for a healthy team dynamic. Encourage your team to give and receive feedback in a positive and constructive way
  4. Create opportunities for social interaction: Social interaction can help build relationships and trust within a team. Make time for informal socializing, such as grabbing lunch together or going for after-work drinks.
  5. Address conflict head-on: Conflict is inevitable in any team. It’s important to address conflict head-on and try to resolve it in a constructive way

If you’re struggling with communication in your team, try out some of these tips!

Do you have any other tips for bridging the communication gap in a team? Share them with us in the comments below!