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Toxic Achiever

I heard the term Toxic Achiever in relation to someone who excels in their work but does it at a high cost to others.

I heard the term Toxic Achiever in relation to someone who excels in their work but does it at a high cost to others. Oftentimes, these individuals are in some sort of managerial role, but toxic achievers rarely ascend much higher than a mid-tier management. Where the higher positions are reserved for those who have a healthy balance of IQ, EQ, and people skills.  

So, what are some of the traits of toxic achievers?

  • Micro-Management.
  • Overly Critical.
  • Sarcasm and condescension. 
  • Closed mindedness.
  • Poor communication skills.
  • Hyper aggressive and intolerant.
  • Blame others instead of self-reflecting.
  • Hide behind policy and procedure.

While extremely painful to deal with, these toxic achievers can be some of our best teachers. Think about it, the more toxic and obnoxious someone is, the more we remember what we learned from them which is normally what not to do. Don’t forget everyone on this planet has something to teach us, including toxic achievers, as painful as they may be to deal with.

Years ago, I worked for a company where the President was a toxic achiever. He was a brilliant individual, but extremely abusive to his subordinates. As I observed his behavior overtime, I couldn’t help but think he had been in an abusive situation as a child. It was as if he didn’t know anything different or better. As if his over-the-top antics were somehow or another normal. I learned a lot from him and for that reason, I am grateful for the experience.  
Toxic achievers are not reserved for managers. They can also come in the form of other team members, peers, or subordinates. While these people can make amazing things happen from an achievement perspective, they can be handful. The way I would describe them is high maintenance, victimized, self-focused, boisterous, quick tempered, unpredictable, unreliable, and a risk.
On some level, I see toxic achievers as a challenge and try to find a way to work with them. Like, you can create an environment where they can be successful despite themselves. It can be done, but if they become more and more toxic, then you must act to preserve the greater good by releasing them. I have found it difficult to uplift toxic achievers, but they will certainly drag you down with them. What’s the old saying, “misery loves company.

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