Dealing with a Toxic Employee? Here are the First 3 Things You Need To Do

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A Brief History

On July 24, 2017, in New Delhi, The Union Minister for Women and Child Development, Smt. Maneka Sanjay Gandhi, spoke at the launch of the online complaint system “Sexual Harassment e-Box” for registering complaints related to sexual harassment at workplace.  Workplaces with toxic employees affect the office environment and upset the employees. Workplace toxicity is damaging to the company’s success and could either make or break your business. No matter how much time and effort you invest into your business to create a company culture mirroring the company values, a toxic employee could make it crumble to the floor. Unless you do something to stop the toxicity from spreading.

Digging Deeper

Who are toxic employees?

Some people are toxic before they begin working for you, while others tend to develop toxic personality traits over time. Now, there is not one single reason for how or why people turn into toxic employees. There could be many reasons ranging from insecurity, worry, or jealousy. In a few cases, there is a clash of personalities or misguided competitiveness that makes the employee behave in this way.

So, a toxic employee is a negative person, always blames others for their mistakes, and tries to avoid being held accountable for anything.

No matter how it festers in a person, if you do not take the right steps to manage or correct it, it could become dangerous. Such behavior requires close monitoring. A business could invest in an app to keep an eye on employees of toxic personality traits.

So here are the top three things you need to do if you to spot or handle a toxic employee:

1Identify them during the interview

The first thing you need to do to keep your business safe from toxic employees is not to hire them in the first place.

When it comes to recruiting someone, managers tend to dismiss a person’s negative attitude or personality, if they are bright and have the potential to fill the seat. They ignore the fact that the candidate spoke negatively about his former employer in the interview. And he was the highest-performing employee at his former workplace consecutively for five years.  The recruitment manager has to choose between two things. He could either ignore the fact about the candidate’s negative personality or think about how he can add value to the company. Or he could do nothing and hire the other applicant.

Your gut never lies. So, if you feel that someone is going to bring negative energy into your organization, he will. It becomes difficult to fix things once you have already hired them, and they have mingled with others.

2Deal with the issue the moment you know about it

This is important. Some managers do not have the quality to take a hands-on approach to resolve conflicts. They would rather try to avoid them altogether, which is a weakness on their part because a leader should have problem-solving skills.

They just hire people and leave it to the respective team managers to handle them. When an issue arises, they would rather not get involved waiting for it to resolve by itself.

These early instances are the warning signs that the person you hired might be wrong for your company. They tell you what the future of the team/company look like in the future and how this person is going to become over time. If left unchecked, it can aggravate. One dispute would turn into two and so forth. If they are toxic and act suspicious, they could be spies too. If any of their actions remotely to corporate espionage, or someone tells you about them, be on alert and get an app to keep an eye on employees as soon as you can to know for sure.

Particularly if your company is on the smaller side, you should closely watch the new hires in the initial days to gauge them. Why? Because it is convenient to fire someone a month rather than a year later.

3.  Trust your gut

The moment you feel it in your gut that you need to fire someone, listen to your gut. If you have a small setup, things can turn from bad into worse within a short time. So, you are not at the advantage of waiting around.

If someone has shown his true colors that he is not a team player but a negative and toxic person, trust that they won’t change. So, no matter how brilliant they are, you will have to let them go. When you know they are not right for the job, start looking for the one who is.

It is all up to you. If you think that you are failing these employees, somehow leading them to act like this, assess where you could be wrong. And listen to what your gut tells you, if you are not getting positive vibes from someone, let them go.

Question for students (and subscribers): Have you ever worked with toxic employees?  Please let us know in the comments section below this article.

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Historical Evidence

For more information, please see…

Havel, Pete.  The Arsonist in the Office: Fireproofing Your Life Against Toxic Coworkers, Bosses, Employees, and Cultures.  Clovercroft Publishing, 2019.

The featured image in this article, a photograph by the Ministry of Women and Child Development, is a copyrighted work of the Government of India, licensed under the Government Open Data License – India (GODL).

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About Author

Abdul Alhazred

“But I don’t want to go among mad people," Alice remarked. "Oh, you can’t help that," said the Cat: "we’re all mad here. I’m mad. You’re mad." "How do you know I’m mad?" said Alice. "You must be," said the Cat, "or you wouldn’t have come here.” ― Lewis Carroll, Alice in Wonderland