How we change what others think, feel, believe and do
What is the Poison Person Costing You?
Guest articles > What is the Poison Person Costing You?
by: Lisa Earle McLeod
Every organization has a poison person; some organizations have lots of
poison people. They’re the people who suck the energy out of projects, complain
about routine events and whine about the slightest inconvenience.
A 2001 study from Case Western University revealed, “Bad emotions, bad parents, and bad feedback have more impact than good ones, and bad information is processed more thoroughly than good.” Workplace studies have documented that it takes five positive comments to outweigh one negative comment. People are more likely to remember a surly comment from a poison person than they are to remember positive comments from their boss, colleague, or someone they care about. Organizations often underestimate the power of poison people. They keep them around because of their perceived skills or knowledge.
I frequently hear leaders say, as my former boss did, “So and so is negative, but they’re good at their job.” Now that I know better, I can see that my boss, and leaders like him are dead flat wrong. Would my boss still believe that his poison admin was effective if he knew that her bad attitude was causing him to miss critical information? I doubt it. Part of the fault was his for not considering the implications of her bad attitude. But part of the fault was ours for not pointing it out.
A poison person’s negativity seeps into the whole group. Sometimes you don’t
even realize what a big impact one person is having on an entire team. Here are
three kinds of poison people that may be costing you more than you realize:
You can’t banish the poison people to their own island, although it’s fun to imagine them sentenced to life with their own kind. But you can keep them out of your organization, and your life.
If you’re a boss, don’t underestimate how much one person’s negativity can affect your entire team. No one is skilled enough to merit ruining the morale of a whole group. If you're dealing with a poison person, don’t engage. And if you suspect you may be a poison person, get help. You're sucking the life out of us and that’s hardly how you want to be remembered.