Guy looking at computer with frustrated look

5 Toxic Workplace Behaviors That Infuriate People

What toxic workplace behaviors get on your nerves the most? What gets on your nerves the most professionally?

If you ask inspirational speaker Simon Sinek, he’ll tell you, “I hate the term soft skills; there’s nothing soft about them.” And he’s right. they’re human skills, and many of us need a crash course.

Why do we compare human and technical skills as “soft” or “hard”?

For example, many network technicians are great at getting computers to talk to each other but don’t communicate well with humans.

But for that network tech to keep people emailing and hosting video calls, they must know how to work with people.

Regardless of their technical knowledge.

We can order pizza with a shoe these days.

But we’ve lost sight of how to be people. And leaders forget that when people don’t work well together, projects can slow down or derail altogether.

Poor Communication Practices

People talking at a lake, avoiding toxic workplace behaviors
Photo by Priscilla Du Preez on Unsplash

Take a second and think about the most significant hiccups or failures with your professional projects. Or maybe even in your personal life.

What was the root cause?

I bet the culprit was poor communication.

People coming out of the restroom can give you too much information. But most project managers will tell you that a top offense with project stakeholders is a lack of info.

Project managers might spend 90% of their time communicating, but everyone must do their part.

We should treat projects like the speed limit.

You can speed and cut through gas stations if you’re in a rush. And you might get away with it.

But when you risk it on the way to a job interview, things can go south.

Poor communication is one of the worst toxic workplace behaviors because we can easily prevent it, yet we don’t.

And that makes for a bad day when you have to tell customers there’s a project delay.

So slow it down.

Whether you’re working on an annual goal or a slight change request, take the time to communicate properly.

Someone telling you, “Thanks, but that’s not my concern,” beats “Why am I just now hearing about this?” any day of the week.

Poor Documentation Practices

“Hey, do you remember where we put the training documentation for our accounting vendors?”

“Where is the master service agreement for our VOIP provider?”

Who Knows Idk GIF
GIF by Giphy

Nobody knows.

Because it lived in Sam’s inbox, and he quit three months ago.

Before cloud computing, documentation was messy between sharing spreadsheets and Word documents.

But today, there’s no excuse. It’s never been easier to organize project documentation between tools like SharePoint and Wrike.

Still, the best software can’t fix a human problem.

But poor documentation isn’t due to a lack of technology or funding. It’s because the people in charge don’t expect it.

Taking the time to document and organize today will spare your team future bad days.

Because you never know what you need until you need it. Set that example with your team.

Poor Email Etiquette

Back in the day, people took pride in writing letters and handwriting.

It was an art form, and you could tell who cared enough to compose a letter that got the message across and looked good doing it.

Today, we fire off a three-word email from our watch while standing in line at Mcdonald’s and go back to scrolling social media.

It’s great that technology makes it easier to communicate, but we’ve lost our sense of delivery.

The practices we’ve picked up with texting and instant messaging have crossed into our email composition.

But when we don’t clearly communicate in emails, it causes issues.

A poorly written email that should only have one response turns into an 18 message thread because the sender doesn’t bother to clarify and edit their message.

Spell check can be handy, but proofreading works wonders.

And in a remote workplace, these toxic workplace behaviors worsen stress levels.

We aren’t going back to fancy stationery and letter openers any time soon, but taking time to practice email etiquette keeps your team happy and properly informed.

Listening Skills

Man listening to a cup phone, poor listening is one of the more common toxic workplace behaviors
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

You just know when someone’s not listening.

Maybe the boss is on the phone during a meeting. But entry-level employees do the same thing in more subtle ways.

It takes practice to listen actively, and there are many handy books that your teammates need to read. You know who I’m talking about.

Tips for active listening include making eye contact with the speaker and repeating the message back.

Make a point to let people know you’re paying attention, just don’t overdo it.

When we don’t listen, we cause anxiety and tension, which confuses and throws a wrench in any project.

“There is a difference between listening and awaiting your turn to speak.”

Simon Sinek

Bad Manners

Stephanie from Full House saying "How rude"

There’s a book called All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten, and every adult would do well to read it.

For example, share, don’t steal, and clean up after yourself. Let me tell you, I’ve seen these three rules broken many times in the grown-up world.

But one of the most toxic workplace behaviors is bad manners.

We teach children to say “the magic word.” Yet once we get to work, we completely contradict ourselves.

Some people might say that being nice is unnecessary because it takes extra effort.

But they don’t realize we call it “the magic word” for a reason, and it’s because it magically makes people more likely to want to help.

Manners are the lubricant that makes any team work well together. It shows respect, and when people feel appreciated, they’re more likely to perform better.

Manners are a sensitive awareness of the feelings of others. If you have that awareness, you have good manners, no matter what fork you use.

Emily Post

Go forth, and make the world a better workplace!

group of young people happily talking because they avoided these toxic workplace behaviors
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Technology will continue to advance. But as long as people work together, we must balance our human and technical skills.

We can avoid these toxic workplace behaviors by actively working on them each day.

It’s like martial arts or meditation. You have to practice.

And the best part is that these habits fit any project budget since it’s free to be friendly and thorough.

Now that you know how to spot toxic behavior check these tips out on spotting a bad marketing company!


Hi, I'm Greg. The pen IS mightier than the sword!