How to deal with a toxic employee negatively impacting company culture

by Heat Recruitment

By Ross Bennett

Nobody hires a toxic employee by choice. Despite this, every office seems to have one: the snake in the grass who spreads gossip like wildfire; the self-centred worker willing to throw anyone under the bus to get recognition; the catalyst to a negative working environment.

Unfortunately, no matter how carefully you pick your staff, you may still end up with a bad apple in your basket. However, while it can be difficult to screen candidates for behavioural traits that align with a typical ‘toxic employee’, it’s an issue that can be resolved once you start to spot the signs. But be quick: all it takes is one person with a negative attitude to cause a domino effect on your workforce.

In order to deal with a toxic employee quickly and efficiently, take the five following steps:

Assess the damage

In order to determine the best course of action, it’s a good idea to consider the impact your employee has on the rest of the team. Do they bring down productivity levels, are they bullying other individuals in the business or do they simply have a sour disposition? A toxic employee comes in many forms, but if an individual’s behaviour is not preventing others from working or damaging the company culture, you may want to adjust your approach.

However, if a person’s negativity is compromising the work of others – not to mention their own strengths – the issue should be addressed immediately.

Identify the root cause

Surprised to see your employee acting out? Has their attitude drastically dropped in positivity since you hired them? Have there been any changes to their working life, clashes with colleagues or even personal life events that have caused this behaviour? Arrange a meeting with your employee to catch up about how they are; give them a chance to vent frustrations and ensure they feel comfortable sharing their true opinions.

They could be acting out due to dissatisfaction in their role – compensating for insecurities. Perhaps they simply feel left out from a company “clique”. Getting to the bottom of the issue and making your employee aware of your concerns may help them to feel reassured of their value.

Take action

Being supportive of the stress factors that cause toxic behaviour and taking action to alleviate them could help in reducing the impact to your culture. However, if your employee has been bullying other members of staff in any way, shape or form, this is the time to give them a formal warning about their behaviour.

Similarly, those spreading rumours or gossip should not be ignored: toxic behaviour of this kind should be met with a strict instruction to stop and the consequences should be made clear.

Be direct

Very often, toxic people are completely oblivious to the impact their behaviour has on others. If this true of your employee, don’t hesitate to give them direct and honest feedback: they need to hear the truth if their attitude is to improve.

Still, you might want to work on how you frame your feedback. For instance, simply stating that their actions have caused the whole team to dislike them is unlikely to get the outcome you desire. In fact, it’s likely to have the opposite effect.

Instead, tell them clearly that their behaviour is becoming a problem but remind them of the reason you hired them. Let them know what you expect to change and give them measurable goals to work towards; give them a chance to change the impact they have on the culture.

Revisit the situation

Set a time to sit down and assess the situation in the near future. Has the toxic individual taken steps to change their behaviour or have matters gone from bad to worse? If it’s the latter, it might be time to accept that some people just can’t change. Research suggests that 4% of people engage in uncivil behaviour in the workplace just for fun… or because they can get away with it.

In these extreme cases, it might be necessary to admit defeat and begin to explore more serious responses. If the person’s behaviour has improved, on the other hand, make sure you acknowledge their efforts and continue to encourage a polite, positive and progressive attitude throughout the workforce.

Hiring the right talent for your business is a complicated process, and it’s all too easy to miss the tell-tale signs of a toxic employee. If you’re looking for your next hire – don’t hesitate. Get in touch with our expert team at Heat Recruitment today.

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