I recently listened to a presentation from a young woman who attended a leadership conference. As a result of what she learned, she was removing “non-contributors” from her life. I found the concept interesting and decided to investigate the “non-contributor” concept further to see how it might help in business.

Contributors at work are people whose primary goal is to do a great job, achieve a goal, behave in an ethical manner, and show concern about others on the team. A contributor is more focused on getting the job done than watching the clock. They are open to learning and new challenges. A contributor in your life is more likely to share credit for successes. A person’s title or position in a company doesn’t dictate a person’s contributor status because titles do not necessarily equate to positive influence.

Non-contributors are loosely defined as people who are primarily concerned with “self,” appearance, and their own personal success. A non-contributor will complain, have excuses for poor performance, blame others and bring a toxic attitude to work. The antithesis of a contributor, the non-contributor will reject new ideas or technologies, will not be a straight-shooter and will never truly celebrate the success of others. On a personal level, a non-contributor will constantly play victim and can quickly trap you into thinking that the world is against them and might just be against you too.

So how do you remove non-contributors from your life?

  • Don’t be fooled. Recognize the early signs of people who may not be a contributor to your life and enter this relationship with caution.
  • Establish your values and boundaries. Call out unethical behavior, unkind comments, damaging gossip and poor work habits. Be a role model.
  • Watch yourself. Toxic behavior is contagious and you can quickly respond to negativity with negativity. If you notice you are feeling more dissatisfied at work, irritated with coworkers, unappreciated and powerless it’s possibly you have been contaminated with someone else’s toxicity. Take a quick inventory and see if you’ve been in contact with a non-contributor.

Ultimately, you may be unable to completely distance yourself from someone who will detract from your ultimate success and happiness, but with a little awareness you can avoid dating, accepting a position with, hiring or spending a lot of time with a non-contributor.

Mary Louise VanNatta, CAE is CEO of VanNatta Public Relations, a PR and strategic communications company in Salem, Oregon. PRSalem.com.