The workplace is a delicate balance. Your employees each have their personalities and behaviors that contribute to your overall company culture. When you have even just one toxic employee, that toxicity can impact your entire organization.
Best-case scenario: A toxic attitude can put a damper on your business’s success, including productivity, employee morale and even your brand.
Worst-case scenario: An employee’s bad attitude can lead to losing customers, a ruined business reputation, high employee turnover and lower revenue.
If you want to be one of those organizations that thrives on a great company culture, you’re going to have to pay close attention to your employees and their actions. Here are different types of toxic workers to watch out for.
When you hear the term “toxic employee,” you probably conjure an image of a rude, overconfident, self-centered worker – someone who breaks the rules, steamrolls others and undermines management. While these are common traits of toxic behavior, a toxic employee can have a range of other characteristics.
Your employee may fall under one or more than one of the following categories of toxicity. Look for signs that indicate you might have one of these kinds of employees running rampant in your small business.
For business success and growth, you need employees who are willing to create and defend their ideas – but you don’t need bulldozers.
Quite simply, bulldozers bulldoze their way through other peoples’ opinions and thoughts to get their way. They may interrupt their co-workers or constantly argue against what others say. Sometimes bulldozers are loud. Sometimes they correct people using humor.
Whatever the tactic may be, a bulldozer’s toxic traits may seep into your workplace. Keep an eye out for these top bulldozer traits:
You may have employees who have bulldozer characteristics. If these traits sound familiar, it’s important that you step in and address the situation.
A passive-aggressive individual is someone who doesn’t speak their mind when they’re upset. Instead, they indirectly show that they’re not happy about something. This can be very toxic for the workplace.
Imagine asking a co-worker to get something done. They’re unhappy with the task, but instead of telling you directly, they make snippy remarks or procrastinate.
Here are a few quick facts about the passive-aggressive employee:
Someone who is a passive person may be more inclined to bottle their feelings and avoid taking action. When there’s conflict, they may get frustrated and display passive-aggressive behaviors.
Everyone knows this person – there’s always something wrong. They always have a burr in the saddle. You just want to grab them by the shoulders and say, “Lighten up!” (But that would be highly frowned upon.)
So, instead, you let it go until the negativity builds and builds. But that building negativity has to go somewhere, and often it’s into the rest of your team and your company culture.
Here are some signs that you’ve got a complainer on your hands:
For the sake of your company culture and your team’s overall happiness, address a complainer about their concerns.
The desire for job security can be a dangerous thing. Employees who want to secure their jobs may decide to keep processes and business-related knowledge to themselves. However, successful businesses thrive on the flow of open communication, shared knowledge and collaboration.
Here are some undeniable indicators of a knowledge hoarder:
A knowledge hoarder isn’t just detrimental to your team’s morale; they’re a liability to your company’s success. What happens if they leave? Where does all that hoarded information go?
A prideful employee is easy to spot. Like the bulldozer, they are “always right.” And if they’re wrong, they’re slow to admit it. Look for employees who are hungry, humble and smart, as opposed to workers who are blasé and prideful.
Here are some prideful employee red flags:
Pride can be a dangerous thing, and it can affect workers at every level, including management. Business leaders should stay humble and set a good example for their subordinates.
Your employees likely enjoy talking with their fellow co-workers. It’s normal and expected for employees to talk about work and their personal lives, especially since the shift to remote work has given many a peek into their co-workers’ homes. However, a line must be drawn when employee chatter turns into gossip about colleagues, business leaders or the company.
Here are some signs of a gossiper:
Gossip is often an unfortunate but inevitable part of the workplace. People like to talk. And those talks can often turn personal and pump life into the rumor mill. Gossip can bring resentment, expose personal affairs and cause frustration.
Your employees’ performance probably fluctuates depending on their strengths and weaknesses, mood, and what is going on at work. However, if you have a perpetual underperformer, you have a toxic employee.
In a nutshell, these are the traits of an underperformer:
When one employee consistently underperforms, your other employees must pick up the slack. Your employees don’t want that. Plus, your business can’t handle that long term.
Toxic employees can be tough to handle. Although the situation might be awkward or uncomfortable, it’s important to address toxic employees as soon as you identify them, to minimize the damage they do to your business.
If an employee just has a negative attitude about anything and everything, you should address it with them. Another option is to talk to a group of employees about the importance of positivity in the workplace so they don’t feel like you’re singling them out.
Another way you can discourage knowledge-hoarding actions is by recognizing and rewarding employees who don’t hoard knowledge. Praise employees or offer bonuses to employees who share information with others or help train new hires.
Employees can make or break your business, and one bad apple can have a major impact. It’s important that you address toxic employees as soon as possible to reduce the negative impact on your organization.
Sometimes you’ve simply made a bad hire, but many times there is an underlying reason for their behavior that can be solved. It’s always a good idea to address employees with compassion and empathy, with the goal of finding a solution that benefits everyone.
Mike Kappel contributed to the reporting and writing of this article.