Let’s be honest: not every employee is a happy one. In a perfect world there would be 100% loyalty and satisfaction, but that is not the case. You can find any number of Employee Engagement Surveys on the Internet that verify this.
Dealing with toxic employees in the workplace is a daunting task for any employer. It requires time and energy, compassion and action. The “wait and see” approach is a recipe for disaster.
Toxic employees – those who just do not seem to enjoy their work – can set off a range of negative consequences. By their unwillingness to “go the extra mile” and “reaffirm their commitment to the business,” they can:
What is an employer to do? Rather than ignore the situation, remain hesitant, or even terminate the employee, here are a few real world suggestions for how to turn around the toxic employee situation:
A toxic employee must be confronted head-on. As the employer, request a meeting during which you can review their behavior, actions, and attitude. Learn what is causing the person to be that way and review the “proper” and “professional” way to carry oneself in the workplace. If certain behaviors and attitudes must be curtailed, be as clear as possible and enforce the rule of law.
Do not let any ambiguity into the conversation. Provide specific examples of how their behavior has caused a problem. Ask how the situation might have been handled differently. Once they have proven willing to change, establish a timeline and schedule a follow-up meeting to review progress and results. Be positive, of course, and do not rely on ultimatums and threats or else risk paving the way for their resignation or termination.
A toxic employee will require positive reinforcement as they are being encouraged to change. You may find in your initial conversation that there is a complicated relationship with other employees, or that the employee has been “wronged” in a specific situation. In those cases, it is the employer’s duty to ensure the situation is not handled by the employee alone.
In truth, toxic employees often do not know how to ask for help and consequently will mishandle the situation on their own.
The last thing an employer wants is to misdirect their attention away from a toxic employee who they ultimately want to keep. It is important to remain positive so that the toxic employee witnesses your commitment to their eventual change. Nurture the good behaviors and recognize incremental change. Positivity will not be ignored by the employee, and you may find in due course you have a newly minted loyal, staunch supporter of your company.
Remember, if you attempt to change a toxic employee and there is no evident progress, you must let them go. Document everything and keep a thorough record of the instances you tried to ameliorate the situation, and terminate them at the right time. Needless to say, the case for firing a toxic employee will be less of a burden if you have a trained replacement ready to assume their responsibilities immediately.
For further discussion or comments, please contact Gail L. Trugman Nikol, President Unique Business Solutions, firstname.lastname@example.org or call (516) 935-5641.