Eliminating Bad Behaviour: Managing a Toxic Employee

leadership 9th March 2017 Richa Borkar

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Toxic employees come in various forms and exude draining vibes. They can be haughty or slackers and although they tend not to harm anyone physically, they spread their toxic thoughts and behavior onto their co-workers. Just think about it. Haven’t you ever worked with someone who is constantly pessimistic about the ways things are at work or criticizes others and thinks the entire world except them is wrong? Such energy is definitely detrimental to the workplace culture. When you’re around them, there’s no way your morale steers in the opposite direction than theirs and naturally your productivity suffers. If you are a manager and want to know the tricks of managing a toxic employee, then give these tips a thorough read. By the end of it, you will know your way out.

Scratch beneath the surface

The first thing to do is find out why they’re behaving in such a way. Do they have problems in their personal life? Are they unhappy with the work culture? Do they feel underappreciated for their efforts? Are they disappointed with colleagues? Are they frustrated with their role in the team? The more you scratch beneath the surface, the better equipped you will be to manage a supposedly toxic employee. As a manager, offer to help them. Ask them to loosen up and depending on where their behavior stems from, you can counsel them or even give them some time off to bounce back.

Related: 5 Strategies to Deal With a Bad Boss

Give honest feedback and an opportunity to change

Managing a toxic employee doesn’t happen in a silo. You will need to take measures to detoxify your workplace, you will have to engage in dialogues. Some employees don’t understand the impact of their destructive behavior. They need be sat across the table and be given an honest feedback. Pick one of their habits and explain its noticeable effect on their or their colleagues’ or team’s performance. Tell them you’re giving them an opportunity to rectify and improve their behavior so as to create a positive effect on people around them.

Related: Ways to Give Negative Feedback to Creative People

Give warning and explain consequences

Despite giving them an opportunity, if they still don’t exhibit the desired change in their behavior then you must stand your ground. You may not be able to fire them because they harm psychologically rather than physically, but you have every right to give them a warning. However, before you do so, gather enough information from different teams they work with. You can take away certain privileges they were entitled to or reward them if they show a change in behavior. This will get them thinking.

Related: Ways to Deal with a Jealous Colleague

Build immunity of other team members

You have to be careful when managing a toxic employee, especially because you don’t know the extent to which their behavior affects others around them. The more they’re with a certain set of people, the worse the impact. Knowing this, what you can do is reshuffle the team or assign them to a different project (short-term), change seating arrangement (cite sitting with team helps in the project), etc. You will notice that the busier they get, the lesser time they will have to complain. The productivity of other team members will increase too.

Related: How to Work with Colleagues with Conflicting Opinions

Fire if you must, but remember to document their behavioral pattern

This should be your last resort once you’ve established that there are no behavioral changes despite having counselled them. If there are formal complaints against them, then your case is stronger. Document all details of their behavior with peers and/or management and what steps were taken to help them reform. Sometimes the best thing to protect employees and the company’s interest is to show the way out to toxic employees.

Related: 5 Ways to Handle Negativity at the Workplace

With these tips, you will be able to succeed in managing a toxic employee. Are there any other ways you have made use of to deal with them?


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