Toxic Work

Apr 24   •  Culture  •  Headspace

A problem that plagues many workplaces is the toxic employee. You are almost guaranteed to meet a toxic employee at least once during your career. The happiest organizations often experience the worst crashes when they finally get their taste of a toxic employee. After all, it only takes a single bad apple to ruin the entire bushel.

A study conducted by the Harvard Business School consisting of a sample size of more than 60,000 employees found that employees who regularly perform at superstar levels bring in more than $5,300 in cost savings to a company. On the flip side, avoiding a toxic hire, or letting one go results in a company experiencing $12,500 in cost savings.

The study elaborates by saying that the cost of rude and unsociable behavior can quickly rack up into the millions.

• Employees who experience rude and unsociable behavior in the workplace experience dramatically loosened bonds with their work life.

• The study also found that nearly half of all employees spent much less time at work intentionally and also put in much less effort when it came to working.

• 38% of all employees intentionally decreased the quality of their work.

• 25% who experienced incivility were found to have taken their frustration out on customers.

• Uncivil treatment even led to 12% of employees leaving their jobs.

Toxic behavior also accompanies behavior such as employees alienating their co-workers as well as their team members which do quite a number on the bottom line.

• 80% of the employees weren’t able to concentrate and lost out on work time because they were worried about the offending employee’s rudeness.

• 78% made comments saying that they were less committed to the organisation as a result of the toxic behaviour.

• 66% made remarks about their performance by saying that they experienced a decline in production.

• 63% lost work time so that they could avoid the offender.

As you can see, when all of this is taken together, it results in unimaginable losses for a company.

Have a look at the most common types of toxic employees. A single person often displays many of these undesirable behaviors.

1. The Gossip – When employees get along and develop friendly relationships, that’s usually an excellent sign for office culture. Most companies would do well to encourage a culture of open communication. However, gossip, when taken too far, can lead to a steep decrease in the productivity of your team. The scandal can be spot in many places. You can find them chatting away near water coolers, walking around during lunch trying to pick up on the latest stories as well as frequently share the juiciest news concerning the office. They do rude things such as interrupt coworkers to ask about their vacation plans.

This behavior goes too far when the person becomes too interested with fun stories rather than doing work. Too much gossip can wreak havoc on the workplace and can cause a lot of drama between employees.

2. The yes-person – This type of employee is hard to pinpoint because they are usually not the source of direct trouble. If you’re wondering about how to spot them, think about all of your team members. There’s usually a single one who always agrees to everything at meetings and never contributes anything new. A lack of questions can indicate an unwillingness to learn. This type of employee puts in the minimum effort and performs only what’s expected of them and nothing more. They never take the initiative and usually wait for detailed instructions.

3. Procrastinator – Most employees use the internet to do their work. The internet is fraught with distractions. A couple of distractions here and there can and should be overlooked. However, if an employee is missing deadlines as well as submitting low-quality work, their behavior needs to be addressed. One way of combating this behavior is by giving the person stricter deadlines. Giving the person more demanding tasks as well as asking them to prepare a presentation of their work so far are more ways of combating the issue. This results in them knowing where their responsibilities lie which means that it’s all on them to either nail it or miss the ball.

4. The excuse maker – The excuse maker is similar to the procrastinator because both of these toxic employees try to avoid work. However, the excuse maker goes a step further and usually makes excuses for their tardiness. They tend to make their coworkers pick up the slack and also try to stay under the radar for as long as they can. High absenteeism, low energy and a lack of motivation are all common occurrences with the excuse maker.

5. The narcissist – Almost everyone has dealt with a narcissist at one point in their life. A narcissist usually sings the tune of, “Nobody can do what I do”. Narcissistic employees are usually excellent employees. However, they fall short because they do not recognize the value of being a team player. They’d rather work alone and quite often underestimate their fellow co-workers. While they do make excellent performers, a company isn’t built on the contributions of a single employee. It’s built by everyone working together towards a common goal. Team cooperation is essential to meet challenging targets.

6. The over-timer – It might surprise you that more often than not, the hardest working employee is usually the most toxic employee. Most employers typically make the mistake of dreaming about an employee who never falls behind schedule as well as follows everything by the book. However, these employees are usually prone to burnout and make more mistakes than others due to the amount of stress they deal with on a day-to-day basis.
Having a toxic employee can cost an office much more than the employee brings to the table. It’s much more expensive to the company to retain a toxic employee versus retaining a bad employee. However, as most companies know, firing the employee isn’t always the best solution. Depending on the employee in question, you may be able to get rid of their behavior by simply speaking to them. Many people aren’t aware of their awkward behavior. A simple talk, as well as a few pointers, can go a long way in easing things for everyone.

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