For business owners and corporate executives, one of the most destructive kinds of employees isn’t necessarily the most obvious. I’m not talking about the person who blatantly defies company policy and begs to be fired. And I’m not even talking about the guy in accounting who consistently calls in sick, or the woman in marketing who has “mysterious” out-of-office meetings every week.
I’m referring to what we all know as toxic workers. Oh sure, they are usually competent enough and manage to get their job done fairly well (sometimes even exceptionally). But they also have a not-so-funny way of spreading negativity … kind of like a really bad rash. And they leave behind a trail of horrible attitudes and low morale wherever they go, destroying productivity and often your business in the process.
So how do you know if you have a toxic employee on your hands? Here are eight common types you might recognize. And remember, the success of your business depends on addressing their behavior to help change it, or in the worst case scenario, letting them go.
Silos are those that like to say, “That’s not my job – it’s not in my job description.” They will turn their backs on helping out colleagues or joining in on collaborative efforts simply because it’s “beneath” them, or it doesn’t necessarily affect them directly. They will only do what is officially their responsibility. Conversely, valuable employees jump in and do what needs to be done to solve problems and create solutions, no matter how seemingly minor or insignificant. Silos quickly destroy company or team performance, because their behavior gets in the way of team unity and cohesion. This can lead to significant dysfunction, and destroy productivity and performance.
Corporate Veterans have nothing to do with age or military status. Rather, the Veteran believes that they’ve paid their dues and earned a place in some fictional company Hall of Fame. They feel that because of their time served or battles won, they no longer have to work hard or produce results.
While you should always be grateful and show appreciation for employees who have dedicated time and energy in positive ways, keep in mind that every work day is a new one. Each week or month requires consistent efforts that lead to real results, and valuable employees are the ones that continue to contribute in tangible ways.
The Experienced One
Sometimes an employee boasts incredible (and impressive) experience in certain areas, but then doesn’t continue to develop new skills and demonstrate better performances. The Experienced One is quick to brag about past accomplishments or tell the same stories of victory over and over again, but they don’t contribute to any new achievements. Having an impressive resume never wins arguments, or replaces solid decisions and actions. Qualities like logic, good judgement and wisdom beat out experience every time.
The Armchair Manager
Armchair Managers attend meetings and witness important conversations and big decisions. They might chime in with comments of affirmation or positive feedback. But then once adjourned, they organize unofficial meetings-after-the-meeting to discuss and bring into question those same conversations and decisions. They might say, “We have our marching orders, but really, we all know this will fail and here’s why.” This completely defeats the momentum of the group and works against the goals of the company.
When groups of people work together under one roof, there’s bound to be talk. But when discussing colleagues or bosses becomes less about sharing general information and more about opinions and gossip, bad things happen. The Gossip is the one that is usually at the root of such discussions: “Did you hear about Jenny? She totally screwed up a customer order!”
Those who continuously spread rumors and instigate negative conversations waste valuable time, create unnecessary drama and diminish the dignity and respect of other employees. Not only should managers not tolerate Gossips, they should make it clear that negative talk or criticism involving others should only take place when those affected are present for the discussion.
Truly great employees don’t waste their time comparing themselves with others. They work hard, strive to improve, and aim to compete only with their own past performance. Squelchers are threatened by strong performers, and don’t hesitate to make sure they spread the word that, “When you work so hard, it makes the rest of us look bad.” Squelchers try to bring high-achieving workers down to their own level of low productivity, so that they won’t stand out as bad employees. They actively aim to muffle those who might show them up or raise the bar.
Ultimately, the success of a project or bottom line is a group effort. There are always individuals that stand out for specific initiatives or victories, but good employees know that, as the saying goes, it takes a village.
The Star isn’t content to share the glory or give credit to others. Stars want everyone to know that, “That was my idea!” or “You’d be shocked at how much overtime I put in to make that happen.” They tend to be self-centered and want recognition for what they think they deserve. Good leaders and team members are happy to acknowledge and celebrate collective accomplishments, secure in knowing that any success also automatically reflects individual success.
No matter how great your service or product is, things always go wrong. And good employees know when to step in and accept criticism or accusations from customers or vendors, even if it’s not warranted. They understand that “taking one for the team” is sometimes necessary in order to handle problems and find solutions. On the other hand, Blamers are quick to point fingers and make it clear that it’s someone else’s fault. Blamers are less concerned with finding resolution and more concerned with defending themselves. They reject the notion that, “We’re all in this together,” and instead look out for themselves.
So now what?
There’s no doubt that toxic people spread destruction and destroy healthy organizations, if they go unchecked. But the good news is that there are solutions, and positive change is possible. Through coaching and training, toxic people can become aware of their behavior and make adjustments
Has your company or organization experienced the aftermath of a toxic person or two? What type were they, and what was done to change or rectify the situation? Please tell us your story! Leave your comments below.