Office politics is a cruel and unforgiving place. For example, in the UK a third of workers report that office politics makes them unhappy at work.
It’s somewhere you don’t want to allow your team to find itself in. The culture of the office and the state of things is something every manager and CEO should be measuring on a regular basis. If there’s someone who’s creating a toxic atmosphere, this is not something you should allow to stand. You have to step in and act.
The best talent will not stick with a company where they don’t feel welcome, even if it’s not the fault of the company hierarchy.
So this guide is going to show you how to deal with a toxic employee in the office.
What is a Toxic Employee?
Someone who is poison to a company has created an atmosphere that people don’t want to spend time in through their toxic behaviors. You may have even received direct complaints about this person. This is the worst case scenario, and possibly the ideal scenario. If you haven’t received anything direct, you may need to spot the toxic employee yourself.
There are many types of toxic employee. They may be lazy, they may be constantly getting into arguments with others, or they may simply be isolated. Whatever the symptom, you have to cure this before it starts to create a permanent mark on your company.
Don’t Make It Public
Some bosses have it in their mind that the best route is to shout or scream at the person in public. Bringing a workplace bully down to size in front of everyone may seem like a good thing, but it’s actually the opposite. Doing this can make people feel resentful and it can make it more likely that they are going to get even worse.
To begin with, you should speak to the person regarding your concerns. Do this quietly and privately. Politely ask them if they can stay behind after a meeting, or at the start of the day before everyone else has started work.
Sometimes this can be all it takes to completely turn things around.
What to Do in the Event of Conflict
In the event that a toxic employee has caused active conflict in the office, this is where you cannot allow the matter to die. This is not something you can handle with just them in a private setting because you are not doing right by the victim. You need to assess the situation and decide how severe the incident was.
For example, it may require internal discipline. It may even require the person to be suspended or fired. In most instances, conflict comes as a result of misunderstandings. You should speak to both the instigator and the victim privately, before bringing them together in an attempt to mend fences.
When Does Someone Need to be Fired?
Sometimes you can have the best worker in the world, but they aren’t gelling with the rest of the office. You may be able to transform them, but often your only option is to let them go. It’s a sad state of affairs to find yourself in, but sometimes it’s the only state of affairs you have.
You need to consider whether to let someone go if the situation has reached the point of no return. This is where productivity and efficiency are being directly impacted by the continued presence of that person. Yes, you may be losing someone talented, but it’s better to avoid a toxic employee than hire a superstar. If someone is disrupting that team, they have to go.
In the US, this won’t come back to bite you because you are well within your rights to fire someone on these grounds.
It All Starts with You
One of the biggest reasons for workplace conflict is that the people at the top never facilitated the right working environment in the first place. If you are not taking active steps to promote a positive working environment, you have nobody to blame but yourself.
You should take into account what someone can bring to this environment before you hire them. Then you should monitor how they appear to be fitting in with everyone else. Sometimes this can be more important than the actual work. A team of average workers will always achieve more than a bunch of talented misfits.
Conclusion – Turning Things Around
It’s relatively easy to turn things around just by making sure that everyone is integrated into the team. You can also turn things around by culling the bad apples every so often. Just don’t allow the problem to remain or it could start to hurt your company.
What is your advice for spotting and removing negative influences from the office?