Most of us have experienced this - that one person in the office who throws their weight around, who brings everyone else down, who refuses to work as part of a team, who is loudmouthed and abusive, who fails to get any work done and blames everyone else, or surprisingly, the one who is great at their job, but no one actually likes them. They are all toxic and generally as an employer, you want to avoid hiring them. If they are already a part of your team - you need to know how to manage them and even to get the most out of what could be seen as a potential good set of skills.
A report from the Harvard Business School in 2015 estimated that keeping just one toxic employee on the payroll can cost around £10k in lost productivity. While another study carried out in 2012 by Career Builder suggested that firms could be losing as much as £20k due to poor employees. My own experience as a recruiter has shown me just how destructive the wrong employee can be to a team. A toxic manager or teammate will almost guarantee resignations from other members of your team. Clearly knowing how to deal with toxic employees should be high on the management set of skills.
Identifying the toxic employee
These people are not going to suddenly identify themselves to you. They are pretty good at hiding their true selves until they have their feet well and truly under the table. But in time you are going to start to see some clear signs that the person you hired because they seemed to be perfect, has a few flaws.
Managing the toxic employee for their sake and yours
Some of these people might actually be good workers. They may very well produce the goods and you get some interesting ideas from them. They may even be free thinkers as they don’t want to be a part of the crowd. But you need to know how to reign them in before they affect the workplace environment in a negative way. The issue is that in many cases these employees are productive themselves and they cannot simply be sacked, due to employment law. The workplace may also be allowing toxicity to grow, so looking closer to home might change the atmosphere that is allowing the poor behaviour to thrive.
A clear message about what is allowed at work can be important in making people aware that they are causing a problem. Don’t just explain to the employee that their behaviour is wrong, tell them why and put in a strategy to make it better. The earlier this intervention is carried out, the better.
Make sure that all other employees are able to approach management with concerns - especially regarding other staff members. This aids in identification and ensures you can put in place a plan at an early stage. This can also prevent negativity taking hold and give even the toxic employee themselves a place to air their grievances.
Don’t put it down to their “creative brilliance”
No matter how much money this employee is bringing in , their behaviour is costing you money too. Creative brilliance doesn’t have to come with a price ticket. Many potential employees have this - without the toxic behaviour. Don’t get lured into the sense that this is the price you pay for their exceptional work. It really isn’t that exceptional.
The key to dealing with toxic employees is to establish a workplace where it is not tolerated. If you can’t weed these people out at interview stage, you need to nip it in the bud as soon as it becomes obvious. In other words, don't put up with crap!