The community that I live in, Taman Tun Dr Ismail, was originally a 286-hectare piece of rubber estate land located on the western fringe of Kuala Lumpur, but has been developed since 1973.
It is known for its erudite and urbane population. In some ways it represents a miniature Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur. There is an eclectic mix of people. You will find public and private sector employees, as well as their bosses here. Locals and expatriates; both young and old, live here.
It is a thriving community with houses of worship, medical centres, banks, laundries, a wet market, grocery shops and supermarkets, bakeries, eateries, watering holes, parks, shopping malls, and now, even an MRT stop. I sometimes joke that I rarely leave TTDI – as it is affectionately known – because I live here, work here, and have most of my businesses here.
We also have an active social media community page with over 17,000 members. It is a great way to connect with the neighbourhood. New businesses advertise, lost pets are found, essential services get publicised, properties are traded, neighbourhood events are announced, and warnings on crime are effectively spread, through this page. It is an excellent resource for us.
This week, a local house of worship had organised a carnival, and the participants were using their loudspeakers. In itself, this was not a problem. But what was strange was that these loudspeakers were being used past 11pm at night.
In view of this, my wife Susanna decided to ask a fairly innocuous question on the TTDI social media community page. Her inquiry was whether it was legal for the participants of the carnival to use loudspeakers belonging to this house of worship.
Her question attracted more than one hundred comments. Over 90% of these comments were focused on explaining the legality of permits for any carnival by the local councils. And on the need for all of us to be tolerant of each other’s religious practices. I felt very encouraged that as a community we could engage in productive dialogue, even about matters usually deemed as sensitive.
However, a few comments were malicious, and vitriolic in nature. From inviting Susanna to go and live in the jungle if she wanted a quiet neighbourhood, to her being invited to “go-home” if she didn’t like it, to suggesting that her question in itself was stupid.
I did not find these comments disturbing. As an active user of social media, I understand that online accolades come with brickbats too.
But the episode made me think about how we all have to deal with disagreeable people in life and at work.
At work, you will find people who do not subscribe to your ways of thinking. They will have differing opinions, and offer alternative suggestions to what you have in mind. This is absolutely fine. You need a variety of perspectives to get results.
These are not the types I refer to. I am referring to people who are just toxic.
How do you identify toxic colleagues, at work?
The first signal is negativity. Do not confuse these people with the realists. You will have realistic people in your midst, and sometimes they can be labelled as negative people.
Co-workers who are problematic thrive in a negative attitude. They are usually overly sarcastic, and they are likely to moan nonstop about everything. They complain when you give them work, and they will complain if you don’t. Most of all, they judge people and situations to suit their needs. You will notice that in every story they tell you, they paint themselves as the victim.
Next, toxic people will not apologize. They will not see any reason to. For them, things are always someone else’s fault. You will find that in many instances, these people will try to orchestrate relationships only to serve their own ends. And, they try to gain sympathy, and attention by claiming “victim” status. If someone can simply not accept the fact that they are not right all of the time, no matter how much evidence or proof is present, then this is a sign they might be a toxic person.
Thirdly, they are not caring, supportive, or interested in what is important to you. In fact, they will see that good things that happen to you, gets the attention away from them, and their own goals. Therefore, they will never be happy when you succeed.
Be cautious of people who find fault with you and make you out to be wrong at every opportunity. Loyalty is an alien concept for them. One of the indicative signs of a toxic person is their lack of empathy or consideration towards other people. They will never care about what you are going through.
Be vigilant and do not get drawn in to these types. Look out for my column next week. I will share ideas on how you can deal with toxic people, at work.
**SHANKAR R. SANTHIRAM is managing consultant and executive leadership coach at EQTD Consulting. He is also the author of the national bestseller “So, You Want To Get Promoted?”