Dealing with toxic employees

8 Sep

Deal with toxic employees before they infect the rest of your staff.

Everyone knows the toxic colleague. These individuals bring the whole team down through being lazy, gossipy, vindictive, negative or some combination of these traits. Toxic co-workers influence the rest of the office in negative ways. When such people are in management positions, they can increase turnover if someone higher up in the chain of command fails to deal with the issue. It's important to have a plan for approaching toxic employees so they don't poison the rest of your staff. Here are a few strategies to take on the toxic team member:

Make sure everyone knows the policy
Human resources won't be aware of toxic employees until someone, usually a supervisor, brings the issue to their attention. According to The Business Journals, managers often wait too long to come forward about a team member who is toxic simply because the situation is awkward. It's important for all staff members to know that if another colleague's behavior is making them uncomfortable, they should talk to their managers about it. If that manager is unresponsive, staff should continue up the chain of command. The manager should consult with HR to determine what to do next.

Assess the issue
Before taking action, take a moment to consider the impact of the employee's behavior, HR Morning suggested. How has this person influenced close co-workers? Has productivity suffered? Do the person's actions differ drastically from office standards? Finally, consider whether altering this person's behavior would have a positive impact on the office environment. Is it possible whoever made the complaint was overreacting or is actually a toxic presence?

Document the behavior
HR should encourage supervisors to take notes on a toxic employees' behavior and record it in employee management software. This information can help managers have specific examples when confronting the employee. Write down the staff member's behaviors and discuss why these are inappropriate for the office and how exactly they violate company standards.

Talk one on one
Once you've determined that you are indeed dealing with a toxic employee, you need to confront this person. According to HR Morning, it's important to keep the conversation results oriented. Set an improvement plan and be specific about what you expect from the employee in question. Don't just say, "you need to improve your attitude." Reference specific instances where the person has acted inappropriately and talk about why this behavior cannot be tolerated. 

Get rid of them
If the behavior doesn't change, there's really only one thing to do: Let the employee go. Firing a toxic employee may not be easy. It's important to think ahead before taking this step. As HR Examiner pointed out, managers sense toxic workers will be the most likely to sue, which can make them hesitant. Make sure you have proper documentation and do everything you can to make the termination go smoothly, for instance, putting together a severance package. 

Hire effectively
The best way to avoid toxic workers is to not hire them in the first place. Everyone puts his or her best face forward in an interview, so you have to be strategic while vetting candidates. Make sure potential hires talk to more than one person at your company so there are greater opportunities to spot potential issues. Be sure to check references and look out for red flags in their responses.

Sooner or later, almost every company faces an issue with an employee who poisons morale and productivity. Toxic employees affect companies everywhere, but it doesn't have to be this way. It's up to HR to set policies and procedures to deal with these employees before they really impact the rest of the team.

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