Toxic employees can cause damage to an entire office. Whether it’s because they’re lazy, gossipy, vindictive, negative or some combination of all four, their attitude brings down morale and productivity. And, the behaviour can even increase employee turnover because some just can’t stand working in a poisonous environment. 

The problem is that unless the situation is blatantly obvious to everyone (which it rarely is), management and human resources are usually the last to know about a toxic employee because no one comes forward with the information. Instead the affected employee(s) simply grins and bears it for fear of making a difficult situation awkward. It’s important that all employees know to speak up if another employee’s behaviour is making them feel uncomfortable. 

Once you’re aware of the situation, take these steps to fix it and restore your positive company culture. 

Document the behaviour. Now that you know about the issue, don’t just take action based on the comments of one employee; take note of the toxic employee’s behaviour over a period of time. And keep a record. 

Have a one-on-one. Once you’ve assessed the situation, sit down and talk with the employee. Rather than focusing on their negative behaviour – which will only put them on the defensive – focus on creating an improvement plan. Lay out your expectations for behaviour but be forceful in addressing why their recent behaviour has not been appropriate.  

When all else fails, fire them. If despite your best efforts, the toxic employee doesn’t change his or her ways, there’s really only one thing left to do – let the employee go. If you have to go this route, make sure you have properly documented everything about the behaviour and your efforts to help the employee change. You will need all of this to make the termination go as smoothly as possible. 

Toxic employees affect companies everywhere and just one negative, confrontational or lazy attitude can bring an entire team down. It’s up to management to set the policies and procedures to deal with these type of employees before they seriously impact the rest of the team – or worse yet, turn them to the other side.

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