Most offices are made up of several generations of workers. From “Millennials” to “Baby Boomers”, we have employees that range from the 20’s to the 60’s in age. So, why do we seem to have problems with people acting like 8 year-olds? It is really hard to say what turns good workers into behaving like ungracious grade schoolers. But the fact is, many companies are dealing with “toxic” employees.
First, what would be considered a “toxic” employee? The first tell-tale sign is that you have someone walking around like a work “zombie” – not engaged, not participating, the quit-but-still-working individual. When this person is no longer interested in their job or the success of the organization, other behaviors begin to creep in, such as:
- Finger Pointing
- Poor attendance
- Poor performance
But, why would this happen? What would cause someone with talent and ability to all-of-sudden become a liability to workplace morale and culture? It may be one of several reasons:
Feeling unappreciated. Nothing breeds resentment more for an employee than if they feel like they are unrecognized for their contributions, not rewarded for extra effort, or respected for what they have brought to an organization. And, they are not looking for money (well, a little does help) – they are looking for other types of rewards and remunerations: benefits, gift cards, social opportunities/events, etc. Plus, company-wide e-mail (electronic pat-on-the-back) recognizing employee contributions are FREE and have a huge impact!
They don’t trust you. Harsh? Well, maybe a little. But it’s true. Many employees don’t trust their supervisors/managers/executives/owners. They see the closed doors, they notice changes around the office, and they hear words being said with no action to back them up. It’s hard to build trust, especially if it’s been broken in the past – but it can be done. Get out of your office, have meetings with your staff informing them of changes BEFORE they happen, ask them their thoughts AND listen. Do you have a vision and mission? Do your employees know what they are?
They have their own problems. Even though we would all hope that employees could leave their problems at the door, that rarely ever happens. Problems can run the gamut from a refrigerator on the blink to marital strife. If employees are unhappy at home, it often seeps into the workplace. But just because it is affecting your business, you shouldn’t make it “your business”. This is when having an EAP (Employee Assistance Program) or a wellness program in place allows you to help your employees without getting involved in the personal details of their lives.
They are a bad seed. Some people thrive in conflict, whether it’s starting the fire or feeding the flames. It’s like it is in their innate nature to wreak havoc. The thing is, you probably saw signs of it in the beginning of your work relationship; bad work history, lack of references, the tone or words they used during the interview, etc. The horns are there: they either covered them with a halo or you were too desperate for an employee that you ignored them. Remember, during the hiring process, candidates are supposed to be on their best behavior. But even the best actors/actresses shouldn’t fool you if you do your due diligence. Read the resume/application, check past employers, check references, perform a profile assessment, and even sleep on it to make sure that every new hire is a good hire.
Unfortunately, there is a long list of different reasons why you might have a toxic employee – but what should you do when you know you have a problem?
- Confront It! Time to sit down with the employee, whether it be the supervisor or your HR department, it’s time to get to the root of the problem – you can’t solve it until you do! Whoever is approaching the employee should be open-minded and listen, don’t pass judgment or jump to conclusions. Make sure to ask open questions to dig into the reasons behind the behavior.
- Clear it up! Once you know what the problem is and it can be fixed, DON’T DELAY! Whether it is behavior modification needed by the employee, management or ownership, failing to fix what you know is broke will only deepen the feelings of hostility and may make them contagious.
- Curb it! Have a problem with bullying, gossiping and other types of similar behavior? It may be time to get out the Employee Guidebook and go over your policies or adopt ones that address the issues. Putting all employees on notice on the type of work environment and culture desired helps with disciplinary actions later when policies are violated.
- Cut it! Yes, sometimes you just have to let the employee go. You tried coaching and counseling, but no improvements could be seen. Or maybe you just know the employee is no longer (or ever) a good fit for your organization. Terminating toxic employees may be what your organization needs. Not only does it remove the “disease”, you may be helping those employees that have felt helpless working with (and sometimes, under) the toxic person.
So, get into your haz-mat suit – it’s time to remove those toxic elements before your work environment goes nuclear!
Please contact us to see if MidwestHR is the right partner for your growing company.
MidwestHR supports growing companies by helping them simplify their business through HR Outsourcing. MidwestHR is a Certified Professional Employer Organization (CPEO) headquartered in the Chicago land area. As a CPEO, we provide business owners, CEO and CFO leaders with relief from dozens of time-consuming HR & employment related functions, while helping protect the business from ever-increasing HR demands and liabilities. In addition, our clients have the ability to offer “Fortune 500 type” benefits, while being able to better control their premiums in the process.
MidwestHR regularly works with all types of businesses, including medical practices, surgery centers, non-profits, professional service firms, technology companies, printing companies, religious organizations, start-ups, manufacturing businesses, trucking companies and financial institutions.