How to deal with toxic employees in the workplace

How to deal with toxic employees in the workplace

Toxic employees can be detrimental to a company's working environment and productivity. Managers and other employees often find themselves tiptoeing around a toxic employee to avoid a confrontation or just having to talk to the person. This can cause stress and anxiety among a workforce, so it's important to deal with the situation before it causes major issues. You don't want to lose your best people because of someone who may be bad for the company. Here's some guidance on how to deal with toxic employees at your company so it thrives.

"Reinforcing positive behavior can help encourage people to act in a way that helps your company reach its goals."

What are the signs of a toxic employee?

If you know the signs of a toxic employee, it can be easier to recognize a potentially problematic situation before it fully unfolds. A bad hire can cost your business a significant amount of money, so it's important to avoid hiring people who don't fit your company. However, these sorts of compatibility issues aren't always easy to recognize in an interview. Be on the lookout for these behaviors if you suspect or have reports of someone who might not be right for your company:

  • Bullying: A bully is someone who displays aggressive behaviors or pushes around weaker employees. They may use forceful tactics to get others to do their work, or they may step in to take credit for the work of others.
  • Microaggressions: When an employee insults, puts down, or displays other negative or hostile behavior toward others, it's called microaggressive behavior. These individuals may be using microaggression intentionally or unintentionally, but regardless, it can cause other employees to feel uncomfortable and fearful.
  • Making excuses: A person who constantly makes excuses for not completing tasks, being late, or other inconsiderate behavior is toxic to a work environment. Their general indifference and lack of motivation can spread to others if left unchecked.
  • Gossiping: Gossip and spreading rumors should never be tolerated in the workplace. People who talk about their coworkers' problems with others aren't only being unproductive but also creating an unpleasant work environment. 
  • Slacking: Someone who shirks their duties, passes responsibilities onto others, or fails to complete assignments on time, if at all, can contribute to poor working conditions. When other employees have to pick up the slack of the toxic employee constantly, they may experience employee burnout and quit.
  • Overworking: While someone who wants to go the extra mile may seem like a great employee to have on your side, other team members may view this behavior negatively. A seemingly hard worker can actually put pressure on others to perform beyond their capabilities, especially if the overworking individual complains of others "not doing their job" or tries to constantly outperform others to gloat.
  • Procrastinating: Someone who puts off tasks until the last minute puts stress on those waiting on them to complete their task before a project can move forward. When people are constantly waiting on a single person before they can finish their work, they can get frustrated, which may cause them to want to look for another job.
  • Complaining: A person who complains regularly can harm your company's positive vibe. Being on the receiving end of complaints may cause people to get fed up and leave, or the negative sentiments may spread to the rest of the organization.

How to deal with a toxic employee

If an employee at your company is displaying any of the behaviors listed above or you've heard other employees express concern about a toxic employee, you may need to consider taking steps to alleviate the situation. Here are some tips on how to deal with toxic employees:

  • Have a discussion: Before taking any drastic measures, have a discussion with the employee in question. They may not be aware of their behavior, and once you explain the issue, they may choose to correct their behavior on their own or with some training or guidance.
  • Show consequences: If a toxic employee continues to behave in a way that isn't conducive to business, you need to make sure that they're aware of the consequences of not correcting the problem. This likely includes warnings, demotion, or termination.
  • Reinforce desired behavior: Reward your employees when they display an appropriate and professional attitude and work ethic. Reinforcing positive behavior can help encourage people to act in a way that helps your company reach its goals.
  • Document everything: When dealing with a toxic employee, make sure to document any complaints about the individual, conversations you have about their behavior, and steps you take to improve the situation. This can help if any legal or other issues arise in the event you have to terminate their employment.
  • Make changes: You should have a plan for making changes based on the results of dealing with a toxic employee. If nothing changes, you may need to move the individual to another department or terminate their contract altogether. Be ready to take the necessary steps to ensure that your company is a great place to work.

Don't let toxic employees bring down the morale of your team. Use these strategies to recognize and deal with the toxic employees in your organization so you can work with them for the best possible outcome. CareerBuilder can help you recruit and hire the right people to fit the role you need to fill and your company culture.

Discover ways to get the right people working for your company:

Offering alternate work schedules could help you attract more talent.

Using creative methods to attract high-quality candidates can help make your company stand out.

Writing great job descriptions can help you find top talent to join your team.

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