What everyone ought to know about the toxic personality

Toxic Personality

Photo by AZRainman

Ever have someone in your life who has a toxic personality? Toxic people can be found at work, at home, in non-profits, and even in churches.

What is a Toxic Personality?

  1. Sometimes a toxic personality is on a power trip and anyone who gets in their way will be axed, incapacitated, publicly rebuked, or otherwise pushed out of their way.
  2. Others only become a toxic personality if someone questions their authority or tries to offer a different solution or even just reminds them of the rules.
  3. Others are in the attack mode only if you are different. If you are of a different political, religious, ethic, or other different category than they are, they will become a toxic personality and make your life miserable. Everyone else will be left alone.
  4. Sometimes a toxic personality will work to put themselves in tight cohesiveness with the leader and if that doesn’t work, they will attack the leader in hopes that he or she will be the next to leave the organization.

The toxic personality is particularly powerful if you have a sensitive personality. If you take to heart any criticism or really want people to “like” you, you will feel the impact of the toxic personality much more keenly than someone who just lets things roll off of them.

But this type of person is dangerous to others too. Some take it to an extreme and will carry out sabotage missions that if they are mentioned sound so irrational that you think they are kidding. Perhaps they will threaten to hack someone’s accounts or some other kind of cyber sabotage. You think this is the stuff of movies until you hear reports that someone spent days rebuilding their databases because they were hacked.

What should you do if you have a toxic personality in your organization?

  1. Logic says that you should talk to the person and try to see if you can work out your differences. You may hit a brick wall here though because he or she may have no desire to change. They like their power trip or attack game. Talking to them should be the first step if you think you can resolve the issues but if that fails, here are your other options:
  2. You can bring someone else on board and have a discussion with you, the third party, and the toxic personality.
  3. You can try to ignore the individual and avoid contact so that you aren’t affected.
  4. Depending on the level of authority that the toxic personality holds, you may suggest to management that changes should be made. However, be very careful with this action because it can backfire very quickly. Obviously, if this person is the manager, this would be a very bad move but if you don’t understand the organizational structure, you may complain to someone who feeds your information right back to the toxic personality and your life may get much worse.
  5. If all else fails, you can leave the organization. If it starts to affect your sleep, your health, and your happiness for more than a day or two and you find yourself constantly obsessing about the person, it is time for you to find a new organization and move on.

Do you have other suggestions for dealing with a toxic personality in your organization?

If you need someone in your corner to give you that boost of confidence to create a job search that works, start here at my Let me write your resume page.


  1. Mark Harai on June 7, 2011 at 9:07 am

    People very rarely change their ways. Eliminate them quickly before their bad attitude spreads!

    I wrote a post that covers pretty thoroughly how I feel about the subject Julie. It’s in the CommentLuv.


    • Julie Walraven on June 7, 2011 at 9:49 am

      True enough, Mark. There are times that you don’t have the power to eliminate them but that’s when I think you need to assess if you need to leave for your own health.

      • Mark Harai on June 7, 2011 at 10:10 am

        Yes Julie, I was framing it from an owners perspective…

        In the case that your in an organization you have no control over, I would just ignore them. Shut them off. They’re not worth your time or space. Stay away. Period.

        I draw the line in this case, regardless of who’s involved. Get rid of them or me.

        There is nothing to be gained by enduring idiots, or putting up with nonsense.

        I like your last tip; just leave. There are plenty of healthy professional environments to invest your life in.

        • Julie Walraven on June 7, 2011 at 3:48 pm

          I’ve done it myself in the past. You can destroy yourself trying to please people who are never going to be pleased or you can follow your dreams and find happiness. I’ll vote for happiness any day. Nothing is worth being unhappy or jumpy all of your life.

  2. Kimba Green on June 7, 2011 at 9:04 am

    Work Place Bullies! They get away with it because they can.

    • Julie Walraven on June 7, 2011 at 9:07 am

      True enough, Kimba and you know that it happens everywhere. How are you?

  3. Ed Han on June 8, 2011 at 9:07 am

    Julie, I think we’ve all encountered a toxic personality in the places we spend a lot of time. But honestly, I very often find these things are just miscommunications. So I absolutely agree with starting with a conversation: this can be a way to avoid creating friction when it isn’t necessary.

    • Julie Walraven on June 17, 2011 at 3:42 pm

      True enough, Ed, and I missed your comment. But I know that there are times when you can communicate until you are blue in the face and the other person will not listen. Their behavior will continue and it will hurt the whole organization. Follow up post is in the writing stage right now.

  4. Julie Walraven on December 11, 2011 at 5:04 pm

    Brandon, I think perhaps we aren’t speaking of the same type of personality… most people don’t find them fun to be with. Meeting different people is great and I agree that differences make for uniqueness but when someone is truly operating out of a toxic personality, their goal is to destroy those around them, especially anyone who is successful or has people who likes them.

Resume Design and Job Seeking Tips

Here are Design Resumes' latest articles on job search, resume design, resume writing, and Linkedin optimization articles I've written.

FREE Resume and Job Search Tips by email

Get free tips and strategy direct to your inbox. just add your name and email below. I respect your privacy.

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Julie Walraven, Design Resumes

Julie Walraven

Professional Resume Writer

Here are ways I can help you land your dream job.

You may be halfway across the country or the world. When you work with me, we share coffee, laughs, and concerns. This turns the scary job search into creative, consultative writing and learning sessions.