In life and at work, we meet all sorts of people. Some will be wonderful, some are dysfunctional, and yet others might be weird or odd. But, the nastiest type of co-worker or pseudo-friend is the one who is toxic.
The same goes for your bosses. There will be many whom you will like. Some may be hard on you, but you will still accept them, because you trust them. But, the most damaging leader is the one who is toxic.
Leaving aside your bosses at work, it is clear that leaders of some groups, political parties, and even the nation, have a dark side. And, their inherent toxicity has somehow taken hold of the nation.
If you are an observer of the country’s political landscape, you will notice that toxic thinking and behaviour is becoming more prevalent.
Being led or having to work with toxic people is a total nightmare.
Self-serving people always revel in histrionics and melodramas. They are awfully demanding without actually being clear. And ultimately, they will leave you in a cloud of negativity.
For example, if your work-life is dominated by this type of people, you will be exhausted, and often left frustrated. Your work place will see a huge trust deficiency amongst colleagues. And, the stress caused by toxic people can leave both physical and mental scars.
Isn’t this what we feel as Malaysians, at the moment? We are all fatigued, exasperated and there is huge trust deficiency among the communities in the country.
In our country, we have been indoctrinated to refrain from expressing opinions that go against the majority view, regardless of how ludicrous, or unjust these views may be.
Citizens who are opposed to any decision or a predominant view in the country, usually remain quiet. Most of us are programmed to accept that it is better to ‘shut-up’ and keep the peace, rather than to speak up and potentially disrupt the ‘harmony’ in our country.
And, our politicians remind us constantly that sensitivities must be respected. On the surface, for a plural society, this seems like a good idea.
But in practice, these ‘sensitivities’ seem to be reserved only for some citizens, and don’t apply to all Malaysians. When there is arbitrary enforcement of what is deemed to be sensitive, people get easily confused. And in such situations, toxic people mushroom and flourish.
In our country, citizens take polarised positions, rant and ‘cancel’ each other, when there is a disagreement of opinion. There is no civilised dialogue or arbitration. Instead of calming things down, toxic leaders add to and thrive from these skirmishes.
At workplaces, leaders are schooled to create an environment that allows people to grow and give their best. They know that if this type of environment is not nurtured, some people can create a toxic workplace, where everyone is ultimately unhappy.
In civil society groups, sporting associations, religious bodies, voluntary organisations, and especially in the management of a nation, good leaders will always serve the bigger picture, and work towards bringing people and communities together.
Self-obsessed leaders on the other hand, demoralise and create discord everywhere they go. And eventually, the environment in any given community becomes lethal for everyone.
Shouldn’t our national leaders be inclusive, embracing and handle things with mindfulness?
In the best corporations in the world, sound and stable bosses build companies where the rules make sense to all the employees. In our nation’s leadership, we have to see the same.
But if leaders themselves are toxic personalities, their ideas and leadership will be warped, with the systems and structure they set-up, reflecting their toxicity.
How do we spot toxic people?
The first signal is negativity. Toxic people bloom in negativity. They come to life when things go wrong. And, everything has to be on their terms.
Toxic people will not apologise. They will not see any reason to, under any circumstance. For them, things are always someone else’s fault.
In most instances, they will try to orchestrate relationships only to serve themselves. And, they will try to gain sympathy, and attention by always claiming ‘victim’ status.
If someone cannot accept that they might be wrong at times, and are defiant no matter what evidence or proof is presented to them; they are definitely ‘toxic’.
They have very little care for others, and you cannot depend on any support from them. All their actions will be self-serving, so they cannot function effectively in a team. Instead, they will actually be counter-productive in any team endeavour.
Loyalty is an alien concept to them.
Finally, toxic people lack empathy or consideration towards other people. They won’t give a damn about what you are going through because simply everything centres on them.
Don’t we recognise such characteristics in some of our leaders in Malaysia?
Whether it is at work, in your friendships, in the organisations that you volunteer at, or at your religious and spiritual congregations – keep a watchful eye out for toxic people who will, contrary to what they may claim, actually destroy harmony.
Most of all, as citizens of a multiracial nation, we must be extra cautious and call out leaders who thrive in creating chaos, and in bringing their unbridled toxicity to the public domain.
If we don’t stop toxicity spewing ‘leaders’, Malaysia will be a toxic nation.
The views expressed are those of the writer and do not necessarily reflect those of FMT.