Toxic Employees and How to Manage Them

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Toxic Employees and How to Manage Them
May 19, 2021
Author: Shadi Awwad
Source: Rasd

Toxic employees exhibit negative, unprofessional, or unethical conduct towards the entity they work for and the people they work with. They are considered harmful to an organization’s overall well-being because their attitudes and actions directly sap motivation on an individual and organizational level. Often their behavior spreads to other team members causing dissent and deteriorating performance.

Below we label different types of toxic employee behaviors and provide recommendations on how leaders can support.

1. The “all-over-the-place”: These types of toxic employees are typically unreliable and unproductive. They tend to be irate and helpless in performing the objectives of their roles, relying heavily on those around them to take over their tasks. “All-over-the-place” type employees can stifle progress on projects and create exasperation among their team members and peers.

Recommendation: The best approach in dealing with this type of behavior is to apply micro style of management. Checking in at regular intervals and providing support will go a long way in facilitating meaningful improvement of these behaviors. Simultaneously designing specific training and development programs/plans will likely result in significant benefit.

2. The “absentee”: These types usually exhibit an unwillingness to put in the necessary effort in the workplace. They tend to slack, miss deadlines, and come up with excuses as to why they cannot deliver, creating frustration and discord among the team.

Recommendation: To manage “absentee” employees, it is imperative that leaders provide them with clear expectations in terms of their accountabilities. Continuous and random follow-ups with praise and recognition of improvements will result in higher engagement.

3. The “social-butterfly”: These types of employees exhibit behaviors that seem to stem from good intentions. The “social butterfly” is friends with everyone and is generally a joyf to be around. However, social butterfly types are sometimes prone to being disruptive and interruptive which has to potential to significantly reduce productivity. At their worst, they tend to spend their entire day socializing, are continuously disconnected from work, and rarely apply focused effort to progress performance.

Recommendation: Leaders ought to clearly communicate and articulate what the acceptable boundaries of social behavior are while helping these employees re-apply focus when necessary. The game changer would be to
find ways to help these employees channel their social skills to enhance the projects and deliverables. This has the potential can turn the “social-butterfly” into high value team members.

4. The “destroyer”: Perhaps the most dangerous of all toxic types, “the destroyer” tends to – as the name suggests – destroy any opportunity to facilitate positive morale within the team. They are disruptive, manipulative, and are un-pleasant to be around. They foster a hostile working environment through promoting conflict, bullying others, rebelling against authority, and actively sabotaging the team. These types employees prefer to work in a culture ravaged by discord, gossip, and chaos.

Recommendation: Leaders should pay serious attention to these kinds of employees and evaluate whether they have redeemable qualities that support the decision to keep them within the team/organization. If these toxic employees were to remain employed within the organization, leaders must enforce strict, zero-tolerance conduct rules, as well as have ready-to-implement measures in case of any breach. They should also set up clear reporting channels that take all employee concerns and complaints seriously.

Toxic employees are a reality presenting organizations with tangible challenges that effective leaders ought to address. There is a lot of debate on what causes organizations to have toxic employees. Generally, the causes are related to issues of cultural mismatch, faulty hiring practices and other ineffective internal operational norms, and a lack of well-defined organizational values, etc. Prudent team leaders are likely to tackle issues associated with existing toxic employees head-on to safeguard team performance and morale.