Have you ever walked into a meeting room or an office and instantly felt overwhelmed by negative energy or tension? In every office and work environment, there is always that person. This employee has nothing good to say about anything. Everything is terrible, and there is no hope for a better day. When someone posts an idea, this person is the first to follow up with a sarcastic comment or instantly put it down.
A toxic employee will always find a way to create a toxic place to work. If you are not careful, the toxic employee could hurt employee productivity, lead to poor or inconsistent customer relationships or simply spread the bad attitude to others.
Here is how toxic employees are costing your business and how you can curb the negativity.
The costs to your business
A toxic employee is doing more damage to your company than you might realise. Their attitude may seem self-contained to their desk, but before long, that attitude might seep into conversations with customers and chase them away before you even know it’s happening.
The first thing a toxic employee tends to go after is productivity. This is a person who scoffs at new ideas and fails to contribute anything in a meeting. As a result, very little is ever decided, and other employees might start feeling that same negative attitude creeping into their work.
From there, productivity begins to drop or its quality suffers. Your employees’ work might look shoddy or as if it was thrown together at the last minute.
Finally, if your team works directly with customers, you might notice the impact on your customer relationships. While some relationships may stay positive, you might have more frequent instances of upset or disappointed customers. Suddenly your customers’ loyalty has diminished. Toxic employees are usually hit-or-miss when it comes to nurturing customer relationships, and you never know what might set off a toxic employee.
All of these factors will inevitably cost your company in the long run, so it is important for you to stop toxic employees before they get out of hand. Here is what we recommend.
Outline behavioural expectations
As a manager or employer, you should have a certain standard of behavioural expectations that all employees are required to meet. Employees do not need to behave as if they were in a Disney movie, but you should expect your employees to come to work in a good mood and with a positive attitude.
The root of the problem could be stemming from an issue in someone’s personal life. Maybe a child is acting up or perhaps the employee is worried about an elderly parent. No matter the case, all employees should be checking their personal lives at the door, thereby separating their personal issues from their work issues.
Discuss with your employees what success for your company or department looks like, and describe the type of attitude that will lead to this success. All of your employees should be expected to contribute at meetings, and you should have a system of checks and balances when monitoring the quality of a product or service.
This may seem callous so always remind your employees that if there is ever a problem, your door is always open. Encourage them to come talk to you so you can work out problems before they start to affect productivity and general attitudes.
Of course, everyone will have a bad day once in a while so use your best judgment on whether or not to discuss an employee’s conduct with him or her privately. If the attitude persists, call a private meeting and talk the problem out.
Stop it, don’t condone it
You are in a meeting. One of your employees offers his perspective. Another employee scoffs and says something sarcastic and negative. What do you do?
When something like this happens, your next move will make it clear how serious you are about work attitudes. If you address your employee straightaway, you have a better chance of stopping the behaviour before it spreads. Address your toxic employee’s concern, but put it in a positive light.
Saying nothing and ignoring the whole thing will show you condone this kind of behaviour, which is like giving it the green light. You may not be showing support for this person’s actions, but you are not showing dissent either. Employees will think this behaviour is allowed so next time, they will not hesitate to join in.
How not to handle a toxic employee
While you shouldn’t be afraid of your employee, there are some ways that are simply not effective for dealing with toxic employees. In many cases, they tend to create even more negativity.
When dealing with a toxic employee, do not:
- Fight fire with fire: Some managers and supervisors join in with company bashing to show solidarity with their co-workers. Do not join in. You will find yourself set on first before long.
- Degrade the employee: Even if the employee’s job performance is not stellar, you should not insult or berate them in front of other co-workers. It only creates more hostility.
If an employee puts down someone else’s idea, say something positive about the idea and then try to suggest ways of improving it. Even if you do not fully support the idea, you at least show you are open to it and willing to work with it. You also showing that you, as manager or supervisor, are in control of the department, not your toxic employee.
If an employee’s attitude is getting in the way of day-to-day operations, set up a private meeting with the employee and express your concern. Tell them you value them as an employee, and if something is bothering them about the workflow, you would like to hear about it. This shows that you are committed to making the work environment a better place, and even if you can’t fix a problem, you at least show that you care.
If left to its own devices, a toxic employee will turn a once happy, energetic work environment into an angry, toxic wasteland. Do not wait until the rest of your employees have adopted the negative attitude. Be proactive and stop that toxic employee right in its tracks, before it sprays you too.