Three ways to deal with the poison person



Lisa Earle McLeod

Is your husband’s boss ruining your marriage?

It’s simply stunning at how one negative person can seep into the lives of so many others.

Their prickly tentacles insert themselves into your dinner conversations and your pillow talk. Your spouse’s boss is always a powerful third wheel in any marriage, but sometimes a nasty neighbor or negative co-worker is the culprit.

I’m embarrassed to admit that early in my career I spent an entire two-year period so annoyed at my boss’s administrator. I wasted countless hours complaining about her. Sadly, this was during my newlywed years when I should have been enjoying my new husband. Instead of discussing movies at dinner, I would vent about “Mean Jean.”

She wasn’t overtly malicious, but she was rude and negative. Every single person in our office disliked dealing with her. She had a chilling effect on the work lives of 22 people.

In hindsight, I’m sure she had her own problems. I doubt she woke up every day determined to make our lives miserable. But, intentional or not, she had a poisonous effect on 22 people, and many of their families.

I often wonder if negative people ever realize just how much their bad vibe affects everyone else. Here’s a reframe on how to deal with three types of poison people:


My husband once had a boss who beat people over the head with endless debates about font sizes. He wasn’t a magazine editor; their company sold light fixtures.

Nitpickers are impossible to please, so don’t bother trying. Avoid showing them your work. When you can’t avoid their input, treat it as data, not a personal critique.

Slinky Subversives

They’re quiet during the meeting. Yet their acid tongues start flapping the second they get anyone alone. The best way to deal with Slinky Subversives is to point blank ask them (nicely), “How do you think you can solve this?” This forces them to get off the sideline and step into responsibility.

And then there’s -


Heavy sighs, beleaguered looks and complaints from seven years ago that they keep repeating in the hopes that someone will finally listen is their forte. Being around an Eeyore is like Chinese water torture. You’re dying, but it’s one slow drip at a time.

You can’t banish all Eeyores to their own island. Although the thought of a bunch of complainers stranded at sea with no one but their own kind is mighty appealing. The best solution for Eeyores is avoidance. Don’t tolerate them on your committee, and if you’re a boss, don’t let their technical expertise blind you to how much their negativity affects others. You may have the most fabulous programmer on the planet, but if all your employees are loath to do projects with her, she’s sucking the lifeblood of your company into her cubicle of darkness.

If you’re forced to co-exist with a poison person, don’t make the mistake of letting them inject their venom into your life. They may be the killjoy, but you’re the one inviting them to dinner every night.

If you’ve read this entire article and you’re ruminating about all the negative situations you find yourself in, but you can’t quite put your finger on who’s spreading the bad vibes, consider the possibility that it might be you.

Put a lid on it. Your company, your country and all our family members thank you.

‑ Lisa Earle McLeod is a sales leadership consultant, and author of several books (www.mcleodandmore.com).


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