How to Recognize a Toxic Employee and the 3-Step Process for Addressing Them

As a business owner, you want to develop your employees into dream workers. They should work together enthusiastically and perform like rock stars.

However, occasionally you may encounter a player who isn't up to par, or is a toxic employee. Both will disrupt the flow you've created. You will recognize them immediately - gossiping, complaining, pitting employees against one another, and shamelessly discussing their search for a new job.

Some employees may be dealing with a difficult period in their personal lives. In this case, you may want to discuss the performance of the worker before making an impulsive decision. If this employee has done well in the past, you might appreciate having their performance reviewed. If this person stays, it could adversely affect the rest of the employees.

The following scenarios will help you decide whether to hire or fire an employee.

How to Recognize a Toxic Employee
 

1. The late bloomer

Is your employee genuinely interested in their job or are they just doing it because they have to? There is no one speed for learning. The learning curve for some will be longer. If it isn't possible to mentor this person, then get another employee to do so. You should try not to give up on someone just because they are punctual and friendly at work.

2. The clock watcher

Leading and valuing their employees is a company's pride. The employee may not take pride in their work if they are watching the clock or punching out right on time. If they need to stay late, they may not do so. Creating a comfortable work-life balance may be a good idea if you speak with the employee.

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3. The lover of office drama

Dramatic people thrive on toxic situations. Despite their hard work, they are good players, too. Perhaps they think of their workplace as a place to socialize. There is a lot of gossip among them. Their lack of work ethic is detrimental to their coworkers, making others uncomfortable. Because these types thrive on being liked, a supervisor might be able to mold them into better employees. Praise their accomplishments to provide them with the attention they need. Perhaps they will become a better employee, and thus have less time for shenanigans.

Taking the time to assess the situation is a good idea prior to making a decision. Instead of immediately firing an employee, give them a warning first. You may be able to resolve the issue with their supervisor by meeting one-on-one. You may or may not. Talking could make things worse, as a toxic employee might take offense and retaliate.

You might consider giving the employee another chance to prove themselves by following these suggestions:

  • Begin with positive dialogue. Make sure the employee is aware of the value he or she has brought to the table. If you start on a high note, you may light a spark of enthusiasm in a blasé person.
  • Let the employee know that his or her behavior is unacceptable. When someone is facing a tough time, their conduct may not seem poisonous. Having a serious conversation with this person could be the wake-up call he or she needs to make a change. It's up to you if you don't.
  • Ask the employee how everything is going. This is a great idea for letting them express themselves. The problem may have festered because they don't trust themselves to come directly to you. Having a discussion between two people could be very helpful. Try it out and see what happens.
    When a work ethic is poor, the company suffers, but a dedicated worker deserves a voice. All employees should be able to voice their concerns and opinions during weekly staff meetings. Additionally, it provides a boss with an opportunity to express what they expect from their staff, and what they can do to improve as a team. Furthermore, I would suggest that we dedicate a portion of this discussion to celebrating employee milestones and company achievements.
    Whether you are a good boss or not, there may come a time when you need to cut off your connections with an employee. Some examples are stealing from the company, lying on a timecard, setting up other employees to look bad or using company equipment for personal purposes. It is unacceptable to behave this way - and there should be no exceptions.
    In some cases, firing an employee quickly can be the best solution. But working directly with an employee who has potential to improve — and wants to improve — can be a rewarding experience, for you and your company.

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