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All workplaces work on one principle – teamwork. However, in reality, teamwork always takes a major hit when some workers act like buzzkills and hamper team spirit. Termination may seem like an easy solution to eliminate irksome employees, but there are other ways to deal with Toxic Organizational Behavior or TOB.

Moreover, have you tried to put thought to the fact as to what really ticks-off a toxic employee?

What creates a toxic employee?

Workplaces are always imagined to have horrifying and domineering owners, but there is another kind of evil lurking in almost every workplace – employees who exhibit toxic and unappreciative behavior towards their jobs, their co-workers and ultimately the entire workplace’s culture. TOB is like a syndrome that some workers exhibit in the form of defensiveness or becoming very critical of others’ actions in order to lay their weight upon daily workplace tasks.

In most instances, getting hostile, holding a grudge against superiors, thinking obsessively about a target, jumping to conclusions too quickly, inappropriate behavior or trying to be the jack-of-all-trades are some of the key alarming traits such employees tend to show. This kind of rogue attitude is normally shown in order to hide incompetence, gain attention or shun off work.

What are the characteristics of a toxic employee?

If any of your employees has been denied a raise, denied a leave, subjected to sudden overtime or scolded by their supervisors for any thinkable reasons, chances are that they already are or susceptible enough to be turning into a toxic employee.

If an employee tends to showcase any of these characteristics, you have a toxic employee in your workplace:

  • Passive Attitude – Taking zero or no initiative in trying to complete tasks and failing to match up to the workplace’s standards.
  • Passive-Aggressive Behavior – Sudden bursts of anger and then acting normal. Acting defensive when being evaluated by their superiors.
  • Not owning up – Lacking credibility in actions, not doing what they were supposed to or promised to do.
  • Excessively Self-Centered- Narcissism that tends to kill the work culture due to inflexibility and trying to do everything on their own without any team help.
  • Resistance to change – Refusing to adapt to shifting deadlines and showcasing immaturity and lack of personal organization
  • Rigidity – Inflexibility towards adhering to certain operational requirements such as timely attendance or hanging around the water cooler too often.
  • Blame-Games – Refusing to be accountable towards compromised made in their work and instead blaming a co-worker or team member.
  • Inappropriate Behavior – Lewd comments on women, passing jibes at senior workers or being too mouthful to co-workers.

What Went Wrong?

The primary reason why workplaces fail to nip toxic workplace behavior in the bud before time is because of oversight. Errors in the hiring process or not appraising a deserving employee can majorly contribute to the creation of such a deadly worker.

The main contributors that give rise to toxic employees are: Many candidates are even unaware that they are toxic, this

  • Improper Interviews – Many candidates are too nice during their interviews. They try to conceal their toxicity with the best behavior possible.
  • Incorrect References – Many references pass along an ex-employee as an ‘ideal hire’ during reference checks in order to avoid behavioral blow-back and legal implications. Fabricated Letters of Recommendation and unstructured phone follow-up fail to show that a candidate is toxic.
  • Biased Appraisals – Managers tend to favor some employees over others and this is a direct contributor to anger and passiveness in most employees.
  • Unstructured Workplace Ethics – If you deny medical leave to any employee, you are not only infringing upon a law, but also creating a dissatisfied co-worker as well.
  • Personality Traits – Some people are toxic in behavior due to their personal lives. Even managers will fail to detect it until they press the wrong button.

How to take control of the situation?

The solutions are simple, all they need are timely implementation. Any employee who exhibits dysfunctional behavior needs to be treated with the following remedies:

  • Overhauling the hiring process – Adopting behavioral based interview techniques during interviews apart from regular questions about expertise and educational background.
  • Introduction to company culture – A quick crash course should be given to each new hire about the do’s and don’ts at the workplace to make objectives and ethics clear.
  • Realistic Deadlines – Give employees time and space to work. Put realistic timelines and evaluate their performances in steps.
  • 360-degree appraisals – Getting feedback from all concerned personnel about the person’s attitude, performance and overall success ratio.
  • One-to-one Talks – Talk it out. Conversation always helps to find the root cause of most issues. Maintain confidentiality of such talks.
  • Prohibit Snitching – Direct reports or jibes about any co-worker should not be tolerated. Only written complaints should be entertained.
  • No Unworthy Perks – If employees fail to change their toxicity, no bonus or pay increase is to be allotted to them.
  • Manager takes the high road – The manager needs to implement his leadership skills by trying to reestablish the team and making all objectives clear. Confronting the defaulter directly works best.
  • Talent management skills – Many managers do not have the skillset to tackle toxic workers. Talent management and emotional reconnaissance workshops should help them learn techniques on how to approach toxic workers and mitigate the situation without workplace violence.
  • Firing – If all above attempts fail, fire the employee due to inflexibility and hampering the work culture.

To sum up, people who suffer from TOB are mentally depressed, which makes it really important for managers and supervisors to avert crisis and mitigate as soon as possible. Expulsion should be your last method of dealing with the issue.  Many-a-times, managers know about TOB symptoms in some employees, but fail to take action. To check this, a performance management system should be adopted in the hiring as well as work process to measure technical as well as emotional competence.

With such changes, not only can you reach bottom-lines faster, but also keep performance and morale high in your workplace. The combination of awareness of causes, acceptance of remedies and timely action is what will help you avoid creating toxic workers at your workplace.

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