The Guru: Toxic Workplace Behavior Profile

Updated: Feb 18, 2019

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 Guru

Motto: Be free by depending on me.

Favorite Song: This

Favorite Movie: The Master

Behavior: All leaders must be teachers. However, on the road becoming a great teacher some are seduced down the fragrant dead-end alley of guru-hood.

We sometimes use the word “guru” in a way that is informal and innocuous. In everyday parlance we might use the term refer to someone we greatly respect, who has real expertise and a passion for helping others, as a “guru”. That informal shorthand is not what I’m talking about here.

Instead, I’m talking about the murky line that exists just at the edge of being a great teacher. On one side of the line is an inspiring collection of experienced leaders who have devoted their lives to helping others to build expertise and apply it creatively in their own lives.

On the other side of the line, and just a few steps away, is a small collection of narcissists who inspire personal devotion and dependency instead of growth and development.

I’ve been involved in building education and coaching services for professionals for the better part of two decades. One time, early in building a new program, a colleague and I were in negotiations with the CEO of another com