Toxic employees: how to identify and deal with them?

Toxic employees

Everyone talks about toxic leaders but few talks about toxic employees ruining the workplace. They are often disruptive and can be a drain on resources. They may have a negative impact on office morale and productivity.

A toxic employee is someone who has a pervasive pattern of irrational beliefs and feelings that contribute to destructive behaviours not only for themselves but others as well.

How to identify toxic employees? Here are 6 traits you should look out for at work:

The narcissist

They want praise for everything they do and think their role and efforts are the most important in the organization. They are the biggest obstacles that prevent a team from achieving its fullest potential.

The professional underminer

They seek to level up and shine in the spotlight by putting their co-workers down. Instead of focusing on developing their own strengths, they take every opportunity to point out the shortcomings of others.

The complainer

No matter what, these types of employees will never be happy or satisfied. They will always complain about the workplace, their team members, and everything else. In doing so, they bring so much negativity and lower the mood in the office.

The excuse maker

They are the ‘that is not my job,’ person. They show a lack of interest, motivation, and higher absenteeism. Likewise, they do the strict minimum and refuse to carry out assigned tasks.

The pessimist

The one who always feels negative about a project or customers. They continue to do this out of habit when they disagree, and they criticize.

The Gossiper

They spread malicious rumours or bad-mouthing colleagues or management

How to deal with them?

  • As a leader you need to establish and state very clearly what behaviour do you expects from your employees, not only for yourself but for your other team members and other key stakeholders. Let the employees know what behaviors that are appropriate and acceptable in the workplace.
  • You need to find out what is truly happening in order to determine whether you can do anything to help with the situation. Discuss your observations with the staff in private. You might learn that the employee is juggling important personal issues. The most important thing is that you take the time to identify the precise reason for the person’s odd behavior. Simply put, set aside time to sit down with them, meet with them, and find out exactly what is going on so you can provide the best support. Remember that it can require several meetings to resolve the problem. Don’t anticipate a quick fix.
  • Steer clear of making assumptions-based judgements. Give the employee your direct, frank feedback by approaching them. Believe it or not, toxic employees frequently lack the self-awareness necessary to understand how their words, actions, and behaviors affect other people. They are frequently shocked to learn that they are offending people or making the workplace more challenging. Make sure to illustrate the behavior using precise, factual examples. Continue by describing why the behavior is rude, harmful, unprofessional, or inconsistent with the organization’s principles.
  • You must agree and coordinate on the employee’s future steps after having an open discussion and giving direct feedback. The following steps can involve having a weekly check-in meeting to see how they are progressing, making clear goals for their behavior moving ahead, or outlining what will happen if their behavior does not change.
  • You contribute to the development of some immunity by separating the toxic individual from the rest of the team. To lessen the possibility of a team disruption, ensure that the matter is brought up with the entire department.
  • According to studies, the individuals closest to the toxic employee will suffer the most because of their actions. Here are some strategies for doing that:

1. Put this person physically apart from the rest of the group. Rearranging workstations or assigning projects, for instance

2. Request that they work a few days per week from home.

3. Reduce the frequency of department or all-hands meetings in areas where they might be damaging.

  • Get ready to make hard decisions. It’s important to keep in mind that some toxic employees won’t ever improve. They are simply poisonous. If your efforts to change their poisonous behavior have been ineffective, it may be time to let them go.

Written by Karishma Pattoo, Content Specialist at Proactive Talent Solutions

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