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5 Types of Toxic Employees and How to Deal with Them

October 13, 2015

Toxic employees can destroy employee morale and chase good employees out of your company. In a 2015 study conducted by Cornerstone onDemand, a leader in cloud-based applications for talent management, good employees quit at a 54% higher rate when they work with toxic employees. Furthermore, the cost of onboarding a toxic employee ($12,800) is three times the cost of a non-toxic employee ($4,000).  But, there is hope. Let’s look at five types of toxic employees and the way to deal with each of them.

 

Type #1 – The Hot Mess

 

Do you have an employee who has attendance problems, who makes sloppy mistakes and whose work performance is erratic at best? If so, you have a hot mess.  When you have someone on your team who seems like she is in way over her head, it affects the productivity of your entire group and causes widespread frustration. Grant it, if it is a new employee who is trying hard and is still learning the job, it is understandable. But, when you have a seasoned employee making the same mistakes repeatedly and who has become completely unreliable, something needs to be done.  

 

Typically, hot mess employees ask for help more often than they should, are disorganized, are passive about completing their work, and are resistant to change.  To deal with this type of employee, offer extra training, introduce an improvement timeline, frequently check-in with the individual to make her more accountable, and provide support, such as a mentor.  If implementing this action plan doesn’t improve the quality and quantity of work produced, then it may be time to cut your ties with this person. 

 

Type #2 – The Slacker

 

Like the hot mess, the slacker is a drain on your team’s time, energy and enthusiasm for a project. The biggest sign that an employee is a slacker is his willingness to let others pick up the slack, even when doing so proves to be a strain on his manager and co-workers. Some other signs your employee is a slacker include low motivation, frequently missing deadlines, wasting time online or with personal matters, attendance issues, and taking long breaks.

 

Many times, a lack of motivation and slacking off in the workplace is caused by hidden resentment towards the company or boredom with his job. To improve the productivity of a slacker, try to uncover the reason behind the lack of enthusiasm for his position. Also, it is important to provide clear expectations, to demand accountability, and to check-in frequently to verify he is on track. Finally, be sure to recognize and reward his accomplishments. Employees are much more motivated when they feel like they are valued and that their contributions matter to the organization.

 

Type #3 – The Martyr

 

Even though having a team member who is highly-motivated and is willing to take on a herculean workload seems ideal, if she doesn’t recognize her limits and is always reminding you of her sacrifices, it may be counterproductive to your company.  Martyrs have a mindset that no one can perform the task as well as them, so they complete the work themselves. If taking on too much responsibility results in working long hours, burnout ensues, and with burnout comes more mistakes, missed deadlines, and a negative attitude.

 

Typically, a martyr doesn’t know her limits, complains often, undermines the confidence of coworkers, and comes to work when sick, letting everyone know of her sacrifice. To best deal with this type of employee, it is important that you focus on delegation and team work. Equitably reassign parts of her workload to other team members, and incentivize teamwork over individual efforts. Also, foster a collaborative rather than competitive workplace by promoting peer-to-peer conversations and team building activities. Finally, to prevent burnout, introduce stress management measures and encourage your employees to stay home when ill by offering paid sick days.

 

Type #4 – The Socialite

 

For the socialite, whether around the watercooler or on the phone, gossip and chat are a top priority.  While there is a place in the workplace for fun and fellowship, the socialite tends to take it too far, causing a decrease in productivity and in cohesiveness of your entire team.  Some common traits of the socialite include being loud and distracting, having an inability to focus, displaying an immature approach to work, and encouraging office drama.

 

With the right guidance, you may be able to turn the socialite into a productive worker. Initially, it is important to define social times and activities for the staff, making sure you are clear about appropriate behavior. To curtail excessive gossiping, you and the rest of your staff should set the right example. For instance, when the chatting is out of hand, you can respond, “Sounds interesting, but I’m pretty bogged down with work; let’s catch up when we have a break.” Also, to improve focus, provide deadlines for projects and make sure the deadlines are met regularly. If the workload is heavy enough, there will be less time for social behavior.

 

 

Type #5 – The Roadblock

 

Unfortunately, we have all worked with a roadblock at some point in our careers. This individual is quick to criticize other employees’ ideas, but rarely offers any input of his own. He complains often, usually about minor issues, and he expects you to fix these problems with a wave of your magic wand. Furthermore, he is disruptive in meetings, typically needing clarification of ideas, and his first response more times than not is, “That won’t work.” If you let them, roadblocks will sap the energy, motivation and productivity from your team.

 

Handling a roadblock is difficult, but it can be done.  Encourage this individual to provide solutions instead of complaints about problems. For example, if he comes to you to vent, a good response is, “What do you think we can do to fix this issue?” Whether or not you incorporate his suggestion doesn’t matter; you are making him think. If in a meeting, he doesn’t like an idea, ask him how he would approach the situation. He won’t be so quick to criticize if you regularly put him on the spot. Finally, encourage a culture of positive support and collaboration with your team. Roadblocks like to get other people to join their negative world. If no one is willing to do so, he will have less of an impact on your other employees.

 

In conclusion, uncovering and coping with any type of toxic employee is crucial to providing a positive environment for your staff. The best way to protect your company is by having clear policies in place regarding workplace performance and attitude. When problems arise, following the outlined steps in your policy will aid you in weeding out these toxic individuals.

 

Are there any other types of toxic employees? If so, how would you deal with them?

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