Let’s say you’ve got an absolute rock star on your team. You know the one: prodigiously brilliant, superbly capable, possibly with a huge ego to match, but hey, that comes with the territory, right?
Such outliers exist in several companies all over the world. Some of them even own and head those said companies. Steve Jobs, bless his soul, was known almost as much for his bad behavior as he was for his brilliance.
As a business owner or leader, you’re supposed to create a healthy culture at the company. Maintaining that might sometimes mean getting rid of people who detract from it, but anyone who’s ever had to lead a team knows that the reality is quite different.
Hiring and onboarding for specialized positions is tough. It’s also often costly. Letting a key lieutenant go means returning to the hiring drawing board, possibly even taking on that person’s work yourself in the meantime. And if you are lucky enough to find a suitable replacement, there’s still a training and adjustment period. It doesn’t sound fun at all.
The question is, how can you tell if your employee is just acting up or if their behavior’s downright toxic? Here’s a checklist of red flags to look out for:
- Continuously harassing and bullying others.
- Inability to work well with others.
- Pathological backstabbing.
- Refusal to take responsibility for their actions.
- Propensity for drama.
Good-natured teasing is normal in healthy teams or companies. It can even be a sign that the workers get on well with each other.
Bullying and harassment are a different story. There is nothing empowering about getting demeaned or humiliated at work. Toxic employees are very good at creating such an environment, thus compelling their colleagues to seek validation elsewhere (e.g., a different company altogether).
What’s a surefire sign of behavior no. 1? It’s when your other employees avoid or outright refuse to work with a particular person, regardless of how talented s/he is.
Toxic employees do a lot of their dirty work behind the scenes. For instance, they might be perfectly polite, perhaps even fawning, to your face, but they could be taking you apart the moment you leave the room.
Notice how your employee talks about their co-workers. Is it in a conversational, perhaps even complimentary way? (e.g., “Sarah did an amazing job handling that problematic customer last week.”) Or do they tend to nitpick and find fault? (e.g., “Can you believe he chose to wear that horrible sweater to work today?”)
If they do a lot of the latter, chances are, they’re doing the same to you as well.
Some people refuse to believe that anything is ever their fault. If they blunder about or make the wrong decision, they’ll always have someone to blame. Such delusions make them blind to their own shortcomings, thus making any chances of growth and development rather slim.
There are those who can’t seem to live without drama. If they can’t find any, they will create some, adverse consequences for their colleagues and workplace be damned. Yikes.
Toxic employees take a toll on everyone. Like vampires, they can practically suck the life out of your company. A single toxic employee can lower employee engagement, increase turnover, and diminish overall morale. Their results might be remarkable, but there’s no telling just how much damage their methods may inflict upon your company in the long run.
Good customers and employees will always be your company’s lifeblood. No amount of competence from any one or two people will ever be worth endangering that.