Like a virus, toxic employees can subtly or overtly spread their counter productive attitudes or actions that can negatively impact the workplace. Their antagonism can easily spread to other employees, who then begin to identify with the toxic individual. Because neither employees nor organisations are immune from toxic employees, as the boss, you need to beaware of the signs and impact of employee toxicity.
Other symptoms include infighting, backbiting, passive/aggressive behaviour, arguments or criticisms for the sake of being antagonistic and an unwillingness to help others in a culture that values providing input and aid to colleagues.
This is not to suggest that opposing views or differences of opinions, attitudes and behaviours must be squashed. But when these behaviours are negatively affecting other employees and productivity, you have to address the problem.
1.Gather Information. Talk to any managers who work directly with the toxic employee. Look at error rates, attendance records, late arrivals or early departures. Determine if projects are delayed or have errors, try to determine if or why a pattern exists. Investigate the complaints of negativity. Do these occur with just one individual, or with several? In otherwords, is this an isolated personal issue between two people or one that’s happening across the board?
Next, speak to staff who work most closely with the employee about the employee’s attitude towards work, colleagues and the company in general.
2.Curing the Problem. When you have enough information to validate what you’ve heard, invite the employee into a neutral office to discuss the situation. Your goal is to have a positive interaction with the employee, not an argument or negative confrontation.
State your concerns in a general manner:that you’ve heard there are some potential problems, that the atmosphere is not as positive or productive as it can be, that some employees are dissatisfied. Don’t jump all over the employee with your information. Doing so will create a negative atmosphere and put the employee on the defensive. Instead, let the employee share his or her views of the situation.
Then state the results of your information collection. Identify key areas of inconsistency between your information and the toxic employee’s views. Try to reconcile the views or at least understand why differences in perceptions of the situation exist.
At this point, one of two things are usually evident: either the employee’s views are inconsistent with your information, or the information from both sides is compatible. In the first case, the employee might refuse to believe your information. Then the employee can either decide to change behaviour and attitude anyway just to be more aligned with the behaviour and attitude you want. Or the employee can simply refuse to change. In the second scenario, you’ll then have to decide whether to begin an official warning system procedure or the termination process.
Keep in mind that when meeting with toxic employees, your goal is to change their behaviour and attitude. If you’ve invested time and money in developing an employee, especially a long-term employee, jumping quickly into the termination process may not be the best solution or return on your investment. However, if it appears the employee just will not or cannot make changes that will lower the levels of toxicity everyone else is encountering, then beginning the termination process may unfortunately be exactly what is required.
What Are The Symptoms?
- A decrease in or lack of productivity
- Lower or poor morale
- A increase in frequency of arguments between employees
- A negative, antagonistic attitude
- An increase in negative comments and personal attacks
- An unwillingness to work overtime or stay late
- An unwillingness to “go the extra mile” while encouraging others to refuse too