How to Deal With Toxic Employees – Without Causing Damage

We’ve all been around that employee that radiates negativity. The one that causes stress, barely helps, or is downright cancerous to the work environment. Knowing how to deal with toxic employees is key to maintaining your work health and a successfully running business.

Furthermore, no one wants to start more trouble in the workplace. Dealing with a toxic employee with grace and ease is crucial in rectifying things. 

While toxic employees may not be malicious, they bring down the work environment in some way. A study by Cornerstone concluded that troublesome employees make their coworkers 54-percent more likely to quit.

Nevertheless, it’s critical to deal with toxic employees as quickly and effectively as possible.

Schedule a Meeting

What’s the saying? Nip it in the bud?

Letting an employee continue their negative behavior is not only harmful to coworkers but harmful to the company’s reputation. You should set and reinforce standards before things get out of hand. You don’t want to let others think you encourage this behavior. Deal with toxic employees ASAP.

Therefore, hold a meeting with the said employee. A one-on-one chat is the best course of action. Show respect by speaking with the person away from the earshot of others.

Have Examples of Toxic Actions Ready

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One bad employee can make work life miserable for everyone.

In this situation, you do not plan on firing the problematic employee immediately. If that was the case, do so and move on.

Maybe the employee does their job well but is disrespectful to others. Maybe the employee has great ideas but won’t listen to anyone else’s. Regardless of the details, it is important to have specific examples before holding your meeting.

Ultimately, you do not want to hold the meeting with an abstract idea of their problems. “I heard you have been mean” will not suffice.

Having examples that you have noticed will get the point across effectively. But, make sure to avoid falling into the trap of gossip. If you’ve heard stories, don’t state who shared them, this is a pitfall for more problems.

Open With Compliments

It’s important not to dive right into conversation with beratement; this goes for any critical interaction.

If the employee is not doing some things correctly, you wouldn’t be having this conversation with them. They would have already been let go. Keep those reasons in mind going forward.

Let them know why you value them. Tell the worker what they’re doing correctly. Initiating this conversation with a display of respect will help keep things smooth going forward.

Be Direct

Time for the hard part.

If you care for and respect an employee, you probably feel bad about having to criticize them. Being direct and avoiding emotion is the way to go. There is no reason to chastise them personally.

Do not dance around the subject at hand. You should tell the person what the problem is and share the examples you have. Explain the overall issue before initiating a dialogue. You do not want to be spun off into conversation before your entire point is across.

Keep in mind that the toxic employee reacting defensively is only human nature. They’re likely to be embarrassed and insulted. With this in mind, try not to take the conversation to heart.

Share a Solution

As a leader, you cannot expect to tell someone what they’re doing incorrectly and then leave them to figure out the next steps on their own. You must have an idea of how things can be rectified going forward.

It’s important not to focus too much on the past actions, but share what actions can be done (or avoided) in the future. Help them create a plan.

Additionally, hear them out. See what the reasoning behind their actions is. Formulate your forward-moving plan with their feelings in mind. Maybe they’re acting this way because someone else is acting that way. It’s your job as a leader to figure out the correct course of action.

Set a Consequence

It is not necessarily draconian to give an ultimatum. Not a threat, mind you, but a way of letting the toxic employee know that a failure to correct these actions will result in discipline.

This move isn’t to dangle the power over their head, but to show them that this behavior will not be tolerated.

As stated previously, allowing toxicity in the workplace can lead to other employees believing it is acceptable. It’s a slippery slope.

A solid example would be to tell the employee that they have 30 days to improve their behavior. Otherwise, they’ll be placed under a performance review.

How to Deal With Toxic Employees in Rare Cases

Not all situations are created equally. In the rare case that the employee is a necessity despite bad behavior, other actions may help rectify the harmful environment.

While some of these situations may be too specific to offer much advice, separation is always a valid option.

If the toxic employee has problems with a specific worker, find ways to keep the interactions minimum. These may involve physically moving their work locations or avoiding assigning them tasks with each other.

When discipline or change is not an option, keeping the bad apple from the bunch is the next best way to avoid a caustic spillover.

All in All, Empathy Comes First

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After all, we all deserve to be treated with respect.

It can be easy for apathy to bubble up towards the problematic worker, but try to remember that we are all people. Yes, you may be above them in job position, but we’re all equal people at the end of the day.

Therefore, try to remember that there is always a reason behind actions. There may be another factor that is negatively affecting the worker, causing them to act out irrationally. As a leader or even just a peer, it is your responsibility to recognize this and continue with respect.

Overall, be the leader your team needs.

When All Else Fails, Cut Ties

No one likes being harsh, but sometimes it is necessary.

If every step you’ve taken to deal with the worker has fallen by the wayside, then it’s time to cut ties.

Luckily, things may not come to this. If you deal with the situation with a deft hand and empathy, the employee may learn how to rectify their negative actions.