How to Manage and Overcome Toxic Employees


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Tuesday, November 29, 2016

You have probably come across a toxic employee more than once in your working career, you may even have one amongst your team at this very moment.

Article 5 Minutes
How To Manage And Overcome Toxic Employees

Those who gossip, complain, criticize and continuously blame others, are distracting, damaging and draining for your business. 

Like a black hole, a toxic employee sucks the life out of everyone in the office, reducing productivity, the level of morale and creating an overall unhappy atmosphere. The problem is, toxic employees are difficult to sniff out early in the interview process, because if they are aware of their poisonous ways, they are probably very talented at keeping this behavior to themselves when they choose to.

The popular saying “people are hired for their talents and fired for their behavior” is often true. But if you can’t fire them, how do you prevent a toxic employee from affecting the rest of your employees? How do you tell them to be happier? That their behavior is getting the whole team down?

Many toxic employees go undetected or continue with their behaviors for this very reason; it’s difficult to confront a toxic employee. But managers are also too busy dealing on more urgent matters. Read on to find out:

  • What you should do if you have a toxic employee
  • The different types of toxic employees
  • How to handle confronting a toxic employee

What should you do if you have a toxic employee?

According to GetVoIP, there are five different types of toxic employees, which each require different management styles depending on how they affect the workplace:

The Hot Mess

This kind of toxic employee constantly asks colleagues for help, but has an over-reliance on other people to clean up mistakes, whilst being rather unreliable themselves. They are typically disorganized, passive and resistant to change and bring everyone down with their learned helplessness.

How to manage:

To effectively manage someone with these behavioral traits, offering them extra training will help them with the work they struggle with. Introducing a performance improvement plan for them and providing support can also encourage them to want to do better at their job and make them more aware of their role.

The Slacker

Slackers are a major drain on everyone’s time and energy, sucking all the enthusiasm out of the office. They find opportunities to avoid working and lack any regard for deadlines, leaving others to pick up their work. They are often bad timekeepers and waste time when they should be working,

How to manage:

The biggest way to overcome a slacking employee is to uncover hidden resentment. It’s evident that they don’t enjoy work, as they don’t have the motivation to show up on some occasions. You should provide them with a clear idea of what you expect from them and demand accountability from their side. It’s also useful to recognize and reward them when they do make the effort, as it will give them something to work towards in the future.

The Martyr

The office martyr doesn’t often know they are the office martyr, as they don’t know their own limits. They overwork to prove themselves, but bring an imbalance to the team because they like to let everyone know just how much they are doing for the sake of the job. With this, they usually undermine the confidence of other team members whilst complaining constantly and having a nonconstructive outlook on tasks.

How to manage:

The antidote to a martyr is enforcing delegation so they don’t do too much and burn out. Promote a collaborative workplace rather than a competitive workplace so everyone feels equal. Encourage this employee to take paid time off now and again, whilst also implementing stress management measures.

The Socialite

Don’t let the title fool you; the person who is funny, entertaining, and everyone’s best friend can also be a toxic employee. They are usually quite loud and distracting, taking up much of their colleague’s time. They love to gossip and thrive off drama in the office, giving them an immature and unprofessional approach to work.

How to manage:

This type of toxic employee is harder to manage, as they may be liked by many. However, giving them something to focus their mind on can help them harness their communication skills and channel their energy into something productive. Set out specific social times and activities for staff and be clear about appropriate behavior in the office.

The Sociopath

Employees with sociopathic tendencies leave a trail of destruction wherever they go. They cause a hostile environment, ruin the team morale and can cause serious damage to a business’s reputation. They often repeat bullying behavior and have a disregard for rules and protocol. They have issues with authority and are particularly talented in manipulation and sabotage.

How to manage:

According to the Trades Union Congress, nearly a third of people have been bullied at work and more than one in three (36%) of people who report being bullied at work leave their job because of it. By enforcing strict anti-bullying policies in your company and providing a safe and supportive environment, you can prevent this from happening. Carefully document negative behaviors and trust your instincts. If you are getting numerous complaints about the same employee, it might be time to let them go.

How to confront a toxic employee

Before you jump to conclusions and fire your toxic employee, you should take the time to dig deeper and find out if something is troubling them. They could simply not understand the company’s vision or perhaps they have become disconnected from the purpose of your business.

However, it could be that they are having problems at home or they may feel underappreciated at work. If you want to detoxify your business, you need to work at uncovering the root problems within the business and your team.

When you can’t pinpoint a cause of the problem, or don’t have a solution to fix it, it might be time to give them direct feedback and explain the consequences. You should inform them you will be assessing their behavior and giving them written feedback followed by a training plan for them to improve.

If you have tried all attempts, and the toxic worker is continually affecting their colleague’s productivity and wellbeing at work, the only thing left to do is let that employee go before they cause more damage to your business, says trained behavioral specialist, Baird Brightman PhD. If they don’t bring value to your team and can’t get their act together, you don’t have many other options.

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