Toxic employees are like any other dangerous substance; in the context of a business, they can poison a workplace. What may have once been a congenial group of employees can seemingly turn into a renegade band in which no one has any loyalty to the company or even cares what happens in the future as long as salaries are paid.
Business owners and managers need to stay aware and be vigilant of employee attitudes and needs. This comes from having open and honest communication. When interaction breaks down between different levels of employees (owners and managers, managers and subordinates), the stage is set for any toxic employees to become focal points for the other employees.
Of course, situations that have nothing to do with a business might be the cause of an employee’s discontent: family, financial, health issues, etc. Regardless of the source of a person’s unhappiness, it still must be dealt with if the attitude negatively affects the business environment. It is precisely for this reason management must properly and promptly handle toxic employees so the overall employee attitude and company efficiency is not negatively impacted.
Consider the following ways to handle difficult, toxic employees:
Be patient and maintain composure
Toxic employees are like kegs of gunpowder ready to explode at any second. They look for any opportunity to express their frustrations, try to intimidate, or be aggressive with the people around them. Push the wrong button, and havoc reigns supreme.
Rather than being provoked into arguments that probably can never be won, it is important that you are patient and maintain your composure when you deal with an upset employee. Rather than challenging and inflaming an already tense situation, a calming approach rather than a defiant approach will allow the employee to regain a sense of stability and rational thinking. The idea is to reduce tensions not elevate tensions.
Strong and clear communication is a necessity. Dealing with a toxic employee is not a time for “beating around the bush.” Employees must know what is expected of them and that there are consequences for their actions—both good and bad. When employees do not have clear expectations, they are more inclined to test the limits of management to see exactly what will and will not be tolerated. Strong, direct communication and successful leadership are interrelated.
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When you’re having a conversation with a toxic employee, think about what can be done to improve the work environment that might alleviate the employee’s level of stress and anxiety. In other words, be proactive in actions rather than reactive with actions. This is a time to depersonalize the situation and think like the employee—symbolically putting yourself in their shoes. Rather than pitting yourself against the employee, think emphatically about what you can do to help turn them into a positive, energetic worker.
Remove the spotlight
Toxic employees love to be in the spotlight. It’s their time to shine and get attention. When the glare of the spotlight is removed, many times issues will subside or completely disappear.