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8 Kinds of Toxic Employees That Drag Down Your Company

8 Kinds of Toxic Employees That Drag Down Your Company_Yellow Spark Blog
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

8 Kinds of Toxic Employees That Drag Down Your Company

So-called ‘toxic employees’ are like white ants. They eat into your system long before you even begin to notice them, and the damage is very costly. Good culture depends on mutual respect and constant team effort. Toxic employees undermine these very core values.

There are multiple types of toxic employees, and it may be hard to pinpoint definite characteristics but they definitely wreak havoc on the work culture causing negativity and affecting performance and productivity. Over and above damaging a business’s reputation, problematic workers are likely to spread their unethical behaviour to their co-workers. There’s a higher chance that more employees begin to display similar traits. The rule is that simple – if you let bad behaviour persist among your employees, you’ll end up with a toxic work environment.

Like most problems, they can be handled so long as you can identify the cause. It’s fairly easy to spot employees who underperform, bicker with their co-workers or display unacceptable behaviour like sexual harassment. Identifying more subtle toxic employee behaviours can be difficult.

Here are some traits that can help you spot toxic employees:

1. The overconfident employee:

This simply shows an employee is unwilling to learn new things and believes they can do something much better than others. It is very easy to overlook this as it can come off as simply confidence in one’s skills. However, on careful examination overconfident people may not always perform and will give defensive excuses for their mistakes. Overconfidence could also mean underestimating the likelihood of getting caught for something unethical. For example, workers who were overly confident about their presentation skills might not prepare too well for an important meeting and may end up wasting everybody’s time.

How to tackle them:

Give them individual jobs and closely supervise them. Make sure they write down their learnings from each experience and get them to be accountable.

2. The unreliable employee:

These are employees that you do not trust to complete the task on hand without having to check-in. Or you may not be able to trust their quality of output. These employees typically display characteristics such as passivity, lack of time sense, disorganisation, or irreverence to rules and unwillingness to change. They don’t care much about their reputation, or about how others receive them. They don’t care about others. Maybe they are not skilled enough to do the job maybe they don’t truly care about the output. In any case, these kinds of employees are bad for the workplace.

How to tackle them:

Talk to them separately, and ask them the reasons for their lack of motivation. Give them a buddy who will help them get things done. Again make them accountable for their actions.

3. The over-friendly employee:

While the workplace definitely has to be fun and relaxed, it need not be a 24/7 party. The objective to get to work is to get something done, to address a common goal. And any employee who is more focussed on organising free beer or generally organising a celebration at the cost of work needs to be kept under check. These people tend to be big office distractions. This can be tricky. While such people are needed to keep the fun quotient high and their skills are valuable at times, it cannot be at the cost of the work or company reputation. If goals and deadlines have to be met then that needs to be prioritised first.

How to tackle them:

Just have a friendly chat with them about focussing on work and get their feedback. Make them in charge of some official celebration that the office is organising. Use their skills well rather than chiding them.

4. The procrastinator:

Lazy employees are low on motivation and remain frequently absent. They put off work, are slacking by wasting office time on mundane activities like chatting, web surfing when they should be working. It’s highly unlikely that they will finish their projects on time. And they will always have a good excuse to give you.

How to tackle them:

Talk to them and find out their hidden resentments if any. Ask them to define work expectations, and ask them to set goals. Check on them at regular intervals. Keep them on track.

5. The workaholic:

They are directly opposite to the lazy employee – they seem to be working all the time! While this may sound ideal, it’s not. Nobody can work so long and so hard without some ill effect. These employees typically don’t like to drop the ball and would make it evident at every chance that they are giving up something to do this. This kind of imbalance also creates rifts in teams as the person may have control issues, there will also be no balance in perspectives and workload. They’re unaware of their limitations, making them prone to burnout. They’re often complaining about their situation, and put down their team members.

How to tackle them:

Get them to delegate work, and encourage collaboration. Encourage them to take time off work, and incentivise teamwork rather than recognise individual performance.

6. The rebel:

These types of employees form a clique with their fellow employees. They raise work issues by involving other people to fulfil their personal motives. They always test the patience of the authority. When their boss takes any strict action, they are the ones who break the unity of the group by leaving it instantly. Their rebellious nature disrupts the smooth functioning of the workplace.

How to tackle them:

As far as work is concerned, it is difficult to explain to them as they thrive in gathering help. It may be good to collectively address the team about how not to organise themselves against organisations. It may also help to engage the people whom you think spread negative behaviour in positive activities like volunteering, where they can feel more useful.

7. The gossiper:

These types of employees create mistrust between co-workers and the management team. They love to start rumours about the company and spread false stories about co-worker’s personal lives. Despite getting the perfect work environment, they always waste time filling the workplace with negative vibes. They definitely bring down the productivity level of the whole team.

How to tackle them:

Talk to these employees individually. Don’t send emails with standard messaging of don’t gossip, and spread negativity in the office. Meet them and ask the reason behind their negative attitude. Sometimes, they may not even be aware it is negative. Encourage the habit of sharing positive stories of employees who come up with innovative ideas.

8. The pessimist:

The complaining employee has something to say about everything. In other words, this employee is the imperfect critic. Every client is a hassle, every assignment is tiring, new ideas surely will fail and they spread suspicion and doubt, sucking the positivity and creativity from the workplace.

How to tackle them:

In order to tackle these kinds of employees, understand why they are negative. Is it something to do with the office? Is it a personal situation or trait? Sometimes, a productive employee may behave oddly. They might be having some personal issues. Meet them personally and clarify all the problems. Keep a track of their progress.

Culture fit should be an essential component of every hiring process. Even if you desperately need to fill a position, hiring the right person for the job, but the wrong person for the team, does more harm than good.

Everybody is on their best footing when they attend an interview. That’s probably how they got past you. You need to spot them before they end up on your payroll. While this is a rough check-list there are several other issues that can make an employee toxic.

A good way to identify them while hiring is to make informal social engagements a part of the interview process if possible. Interacting with people who are not part of the hiring team will give you a very good sense. A general list can be given for a scale of judgement, Are they negative? Are they too sarcastic? Are they too critical? Rude? Too polite? And general observations.

Even within teams of intelligent, respectful people, seeds of toxicity find room to grow. Without a clear-cut definition of what the office culture should look like, many companies allow the culture to develop on its own, opening the door for negative aspects to become the norm. Toxic employees cost you money, time, and retention. The longer a ‘toxic employee’ stays in your company, the more your team will suffer. If you cannot tackle them even after trying, it’s better to let them go graciously.

Yellow Spark can support you in to understand how you can influence and transform the culture in your organisation. To know more reach out to us at contact@yellowspark.in

Author Profile: Aparna Joshi Khandwala is a passionate HR professional. She co-founded Yellow Spark to work with like-minded people who believe in the power of leadership, which is the only business differentiator in today’s time.