Photo via Flickr by daveynin
Yes, really, let's just call them what they are, OK?
Like skunks, you can spot them by their distinctive white stripe, combining:
- Sociopathic lack of feeling for others but exaggerated feeling for oneself
- Actual or convincing technical skills
- Chameleon-like ability to blend in anywhere
- Mastery of suckup-ness
- Advanced sense of entitlement
- Workarounds, meaning loss of time - it takes twice as long to get stuff done
- Duplication of effort, meaning loss of money - because people stay away from this person, but they both need to do the same thing
- Demoralization, meaning loss of staff either physically (they quit and take institutional knowledge with them) or emotionally (they check out and act like drones).
- Chaotic, inefficient systems, meaning inefficiency on the ground. This is because the toxic team member is not only non-collaborative, but actually is willing to throw anybody under the bus in order to advance themselves. The result is a "Wild West" where it's "every man for himself" (or woman for herself) -- e.g. a tangled web of operational functions, branding decisions, IT architecture, on and on
- Lack of strategic direction, meaning actual organizational failure to achieve its objectives. As a leader, the person serves only herself or himself, and so decisions are made based on personal criteria, not rational objective ones what would actually move everybody forward.
We were watching this scene on Game of Thrones last night. The head warrior is telling a follower how he got the seven clans in the army to get along, since A hates B, B hates C, C hates D, and everybody gangs up on E.
"Unless we get south, we are gonna die, and everybody knows it."
There's no time for playing games, no time for hating on each other and promoting ourselves.
Shortly thereafter, one of the guys trudging along fell down in the snow. He was very overweight, and his friends came back to help him.
Someone in the group, seeing the delays, says, "Leave him here. He's too fat. We can't afford this."
Immediately that person is told, "Now you're responsible for his welfare. If he doesn't make it, I promise, neither will you."
A successful organization cannot tolerate excessively self-interested sociopaths. It doesn't matter how smart they are, how much experience they have, or how well they seem to play with others.
On the radio today, Ryan Seacrest was talking about this Swedish band, "NONONO," which has this really great song out, "Pumpin Blood." Seacrest explained the meaning of the name, according to the band: It's about rejecting everything negative in life.
If we want our organizations pulsating with life, we have got to eliminate the human toxins who grind everyone else's energy into dust.
* All opinions my own.