One bad apple can quickly rot the entire bunch, as the old saying goes. It’s just as true in the workplace as it is in nature, too, and many businesses are finding that some of their employees are turning out to be toxic to everyone around them – and to their business as well. Even if you’re not one of these companies, it’s important to know how to handle a toxic employee if one comes your way so you don’t end up suffering from their negative influence yourself.
In many cases, toxic employees are simply just misunderstood. Here are some of my past experiences with toxic employees and how I was able to turn things around. For example, at one point in time we had an employee who would come into work each day and sit on Facebook for hours at a time. They would rarely get any work done during their shift, which meant that others had to pick up their slack. At first I tried having private conversations with them about it; then moved on to public reprimands; but nothing seemed to be working. Eventually we parted ways amicably—but not before they found out they could easily be replaced with a team member that actually cared!
Sometimes it’s obvious from day one that you have hired someone who is just bad news. If your new hire treats customers rudely, doesn’t show up for work, or has clashing ideas about how your business should be run—or any other number of clear warning signs—it may be time to consider letting him go. Often, however, problems don’t become clear until later in an employee’s tenure.
There’s no magic formula for identifying when someone’s a toxic employee. It’s often not until you’ve had them on board for awhile that you realize there’s something wrong. However, if you catch it early, here are some ways to handle it. Be open and honest with them about your concerns and expectations. Communicate as much as possible and provide feedback on how they can improve their performance. If they don’t respond positively or change their behavior, it may be time to let them go. Don’t let things fester or get worse; take action quickly before things get out of hand.
Terminating an employee is never easy, but if you’re in a position where it needs to be done, always give them two weeks’ notice (or some other amount of time that’s mutually agreeable), unless there is extreme cause for immediate termination. This way, they have time to find another job and won’t look back on your company negatively. Most importantly, they also won’t come back with vengeance and can focus their energy into finding another job.
What does HBR have to say about Toxic Employees?