The Black Swan: Toxic Workplace Behavior Profile

Updated: Feb 18, 2019


Image by janko-ferlic @ unsplash

This series of articles explores the toxic behavior profiles that persistently generate workplace conflict and provides tips on how to respond.


In Creative vs. Toxic Conflict at Work, I discussed one of the key features that distinguishes toxic conflict from creative conflict.


Creative conflict is rooted in the dynamics between people. In creative conflict, the motives and goals of group members are typically healthy and focused on a sincere desire to solve concrete external problems and challenges.


Toxic conflict is typically rooted in the personalities of individual people. While creative conflict is rooted in an external problem, toxic conflict is rooted in the problematic behavior of one or more individuals.


Think of these “Toxic Workplace Behavior Profile” articles as your top-secret files on how to prepare and respond strategically to the most disruptive and toxic behaviors in your workplace.


Code Name: The Black Swan


Motto: Everything ever said by Don LaFontain (RIP) after, “In a world…”


Favorite Song: It’s the End of the World as We Know It by REM


Favorite Movie: Every single one of these movies.

Behavior: Sooner or later in your career, a colleague will do something so outrageous, hurtful, strange, criminal, or over-the-top, that it will make you question everything you think you know about people and relationships.


Eventually, you’ll meet a black swan.

The black swan is unlike all of the previous Toxic Workplace Behavior Profiles due to one simple fact. The precise manifestation of the black swan cannot be predicted. This person is by their very nature, a complete outlier.


Typically, the term “black swan” is used to explain exceptionally rare and disruptive events that have an unusually high impact on our lives and sometimes the course of history. Financial risk analyst and statistician, Nassim Taleb, asserts that these events are usually distinguished by three simple characteristics: