Don’t let a toxic employee poison your workplace!
At some stage, we all hire a toxic employee. You‘ve seen the type, makes you feel that he or she is the best person to hire and then over time they become toxic. They seem to be a magnet for others, who appear to want to hear the moaning. You see them transform from looking superb pre-hire into a negative role model…. or worse you don’t see it until you’re hearing of resignations!
So what symptoms can you look for to ensure that you weed them out swiftly and minimise the disruption?
They vary but often:
- You may see a reduction in productivity and a drop in morale,
- You will feel tension and tetchiness between the employee and others,
- You may hear the toxic employee say “things just aren’t going right”,
- They will gain a negative, antagonistic attitude,
- You will hear negative comments and see personal attacks,
- They will show a reluctance to pitch in and get the work done, especially if this will involve overtime,
- You may feel that they’re unwilling to “go the extra mile” and encourage others to rebel too,
- They will refuse to follow rules and procedures, or
- The team will start getting emotional, withdrawn or aggressive.
You need to be vigilant as this behaviour can happen behind closed doors and you may feel surprised at how quickly it advances. You could end up with multiple resignations or worse; it must be nipped in the bud.
Can you detect potential toxic employees at interview?
Yes, you can.
Often, employees who might turn toxic have had a few jobs, and you won’t hear them give you a good reason for moving on from each one. They may even say that it was someone else’s fault; you certainly won’t get the feeling that they take responsibility for it.
They will often know the right way to answer your question but you’ll see that they cannot provide many details and this is because they’re not being 100% honest.
The best thing you can do to weed them out is to question them differently, using behavioural questions.
For example rather than ask a traditional question “Tell me about a time in your last role where you had a great success?” or a closed question “Tell me about a time in your last role where you had a great success and what did you do specifically to aid this achievement” you could try asking “Tell me about a time in your last role where you had great success? What were you thinking when you were carrying out your duties? How do you think this success made your colleagues feel?”
Asking them how they handled a particular situation will give you a sense of how they function at work. You’re looking to see the way they push through a situation.
You may even decide to go one step further and carry out an online personality test and, if you don’t feel 100% sure about the candidate, it makes sense to seek a reference or two.
It’s a great idea when hiring to set firm expectations as that will give you something to refer back to if they go astray. Providing a detailed job description will also ensure that both the employee and the employer are clear about what is expected
What do you do if you are already faced with a toxic employee?
- Look closely at the problem and note down specific examples,
- Talk to other members of your team as soon as you notice the problem,
- Start your conversation with the employee naming the problem and citing examples,
- Be clear about the importance of colleagues treating each other well,
- Get their buy in by asking what they could do to resolve the situation.
- Be clear about your expectations and the potential consequences of straying,
- Have a follow up meeting to discuss potential improvements or not,
- It works best to have many conversations to allow time for improvement,
- If progress is not made, follow your warning procedure,
- If no improvement is made, terminate with a short and direct conversation, and
- Ensure you keep detailed notes throughout the entire process.
You could also integrate behavioural questioning into management and performance reviews
Remember through this that you have, potentially, invested in this employee so you may not want to jump into the termination process. Instead look to change their behaviour and attitude by changing your approach and getting their buy in.
However, if you see over time that the employee cannot change you must think of the greater effect of this employee.
Could the toxic employee be right? If you are not prepared to face and resolve this employee’s issues, maybe your team have a right to feel that the grass is greener on the other side.
Have you been in this situation? What did you find worked?
We’d love to see your comments below for the benefit of all our readers.
Today’s post is written by Katrina Collier of Winning Impression. As guest blogger she’ll post tips on social media, recruitment and job search which she has learned in her many years in the industry.