As much as we love to talk about great company cultures, the truth of the matter is that not every company is going to live up to these standards. Chances are at some point in your career you’ll be faced with some form of a toxic workplace. Hopefully, it’s just one or two people, but in extreme circumstances, it can be a systemic problem.
Signs of Toxic Employees
First of all, we need to know the warning signs of toxic employees. While many of the signs are obvious, some can be fairly nuanced and it’s important to keep your eyes and ears open.
“Did you hear…” This one is pretty obvious. Gossip and negatively is extremely contagious. Catch this before it gets out of hand.
“I’ll do it later…” Someone might be hopping into your head immediately. While this doesn’t always signal toxicity, it’s definitely something worth keeping an eye on.
“I would do that but…” This is not only toxic, but it’s also annoying. Employees who are full of excuses can be hard to trust and rely on.
“I’ve been here until 9pm every night”. Sometimes our culture is quick to reward these over-achievers, but maybe it’s time to examine why they are staying in the office so late and if their work really merits the long hours.
“I can do this myself”. Sometimes your highest achievers can also be the most toxic. Examine how the people around them are feeling and if they’re able to collaborate to achieve great results.
How to Manage Toxic Employees
Now that you’ve determined where toxicity might be living in your company, it’s time to do something about it. As HR leaders, managers, or individual contributors, there are a few ways to manage toxic employees (even if it means managing up).
Ask Honest Questions
While you may think it’s none of your business to dive into an employee’s personal life, if it’s affecting work, it’s time to find out what’s going on beneath the surface. Meet with this employee one-on-one and ask honest, direct questions to find out where they might be struggling. They don’t have to go into detail but having an idea of where they need more support will get you both back on the right track. Offer counseling resources if that’s an option, or find other ways to get to the root of the problem.
Lay Out Potential Consequences
Unfortunately there is a time when you have to start talking about the “or else” consequences of their actions. If the toxic behavior continues, the employee needs to know what actions you’ll take to prevent them or eliminate them all together.
Make a Plan for Follow-Up
You’ve gotten to the root of the issue. You’ve laid out the consequences. Now it’s time to put a plan in place for follow-up. This means scheduling regular one-on-ones to monitor their progress and support them on their journey. Hopefully, you already have one-on-one times in place for your employees, but if not, this is a great opportunity. Weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly – whatever works for you, but make sure they’re consistent and you don’t cancel when other responsibilities vie for your time.
Determine Next Steps
Best case scenario is that your employee does a 180 and becomes a star in your organization. However, it’s unlikely that will happen. That doesn’t mean it will result in termination, but it could mean switching the employee into a different role or changing up their responsibilities for the time-being. Keep a careful eye on their progress and be open to making moves in the future.
If you’re fighting toxicity in your workplace, we hope these tips are helpful for identifying and managing toxic employees. Have advice for someone fighting toxicity? Leave us a note in the comments.