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Toxic Employees (And Their Parents)

Over the last four months I have been dealing with some seriously toxic employees. Whether it’s because we seem to deal with an awful lot of screamers or whether there are just more people with an appalling attitude to work these days I just don’t know.

Having a toxic employee is a depressing experience. They’re definitely not team players and their only recognition of loyalty has the work “card” immediately behind it. These people are motivated by what the workplace can do for them in terms of money, status or power. They don’t give a hoot about their colleagues or the damage that a “me-me-me” attitude does.

Toxic employees will use whatever means they can to get their own way and usually have some tactics (often unpleasant and aggressive) to divert attention away from their own performance shortfalls. Interestingly, this often involves shouting that their manager is an aggressive bully and they are being victimised.

Running a successful business is hard enough. If you have toxic employees to contend with you’re adding another painful handicap to your working day. Take steps to deal with them before they do irreparable damage.

Start by ensuring your workplace standards are clearly set out and communicated. Give a clear indication of what success looks like. One of our clients has recently had to nail down their expenses policy because two employees have abused it. This included spending £40 on a takeaway one evening because they had traveled home late and couldn't expect their partners to cook at that time of night. The two employees don’t accept they have behaved badly. Not at all. Rather, they have been trying to get other managers to agree with their tactics behind the FD’s back. It’s extraordinarily childish.

When you have set your standards keep a note on an ongoing basis of what’s going on. Noting it down helps by providing you with a description of your work experiences, including those with the toxic employee. You’ll be shocked to see just how much time you’re spending having to sort out issues connected to the employee.

The first aim of any disciplinary action is to correct. We can but hope that the employee in question will accept he has erred and amend his ways. We can’t do it for them. Make sure you have plenty of recent examples to support your point. Toxic employees tend to make excuses or tell you that everyone else does this. If there is no change in conduct or performances move to formal discipline sooner rather than later. The employee has to understand that he has to abide by the workplace rules and standards. And if ultimately that means dismissal, so be it.

Recently I heard a grievance appeal from a highly toxic employee. I've never heard so much drivel. Anyway, I patiently went through everything and in the end found there really was no case at all. Indeed the union rep congratulated me –in front of the employee – on my thoroughness and general good quality of my approach and that of the original appeal officer. Nevertheless the employee in question has now resigned saying that I am clearly in the pocket of the manager. We’re delighted he’s going. Let’s see what transpired next.

If you know anyone who wants to sort out their toxic employees get in touch.

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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