Rotten Apple? How to Manage an Employee Who is Being Toxic

“One bad apple spoils the whole barrel,” according to the old saying. When an employee is behaving in a toxic manner, their rotten-apple attitude can affect the entire team.

Toxic employees differ from merely difficult ones by the way their harmful behavior impacts the team. When others are exposed to the toxic person, they experience frustration, a lack of energy or even anxiety – all of which negatively effects their work performance.

The good news? You don’t have to let the bad apple rot. Here’s how managers can address toxic worker behaviors like a bad attitude or disrespect toward co-workers.

Find out what’s going on.

All behaviors have causes, so start with your toxic employee by asking them how they’re doing. Depending on the cause of the problem, you may be able to offer coaching or recommend resources that can help the person address the issue.

Be straightforward.

Often, toxic employees don’t realize what effect their behavior has on others. They’re too busy focusing on their own problem and their own negative emotional reactions to it.

Direct, honest feedback clarifies the problem, helps the worker understand how they’re affecting the team and provides concrete steps to change it. When you give feedback, focus on how the other person’s behavior is affecting the work – both their own work and the work of people around them.

Set boundaries.

Toxicity harms others because it permeates boundaries. Consequently, dealing with a toxic employee may require you to set appropriate boundaries, depending on the situation. For instance, if your employee has a habit of toxic “tattling,” you may need to set a boundary that states the person may not bring stories about co-workers to you unless they have concrete evidence that the behavior is negatively affecting performance.

Document everything.

Some toxic people don’t change, even when given clear guidelines for doing so and consequences for failing to do so. Keep records of every step you try and the results, so you’ll have a clear basis for firing the person if it becomes necessary to let them go to preserve the successes of the rest of the team.

At THE RIGHT STAFF, LLC, our recruiters focus on helping you find candidates who offer a great fit for your team, as well as the skills you need. To learn more about our Maple Grove staffing services, contact us today.

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