Have you ever encountered a toxic employee who, for some reason, keeps being rewarded or even promoted in the workplace?
Every office usually has that one person who is undoubtedly toxic. They are known to bully, belittle, threaten, insult, and humiliate their colleagues.
Worst of all, these employees are often rewarded and promoted over their peers. As they gain more power in the workplace, their negative behaviors quickly establish a toxic environment that affects the working dynamics of your organization.
Why do these employees keep getting rewarded? And how, as a leader, can you mitigate and eliminate this issue?
Why are toxic employees tolerated?
The reason why companies retain their bad apples is mainly related to business. Let us take a look at some of the most common reasons why companies often reward this kind of employee.
1. They know how to carry themselves
Toxic people know that confidence is key, and so they fake it until they make it. This is not necessarily a bad thing to do—however, these people are known to put on masks that deceive their leaders. This makes it seem like they are highly capable, when in reality, they let others shoulder their responsibilities so they can claim credit for themselves.
2. They play dirty
All is fair in the minds of toxic employees. When they want to win something, they become obsessed with it and will do anything to reach their goal. Even if it means putting others down by spouting lies, spreading rumors and creating drama, or throwing other people under the bus. All so they can reach their goals and eliminate their competition.
3. They manipulate their way to the top
In order to get where they want to be, toxic individuals often lie to their supervisors about their skills and experience. They will embellish and brag about their achievements and do whatever it takes to push themselves to the top.
4. They are sociable and likable
One of the main reasons why toxic employees get promoted is because they are extroverted individuals who can win the hearts and minds of the people they are targeting. They are the life of the party and fun to hang around with. So when the time comes for a promotion, the first person that a leader will think about is them.
5. They turn themselves into a martyr
Toxic employees are often good actors. They will ensure to make everyone notice how hard they are working, how they are the last ones to leave the office and create extra work and stress for themselves out of thin air. Most importantly, they will brag about this to everyone who might want to listen, giving the illusion that they are such hard workers. This might lead to a misguided manager giving this workplace martyr a promotion that they do not actually deserve.
Consequences of a Toxic Work Environment
Employees who are stuck in a toxic work environment tend to be unmotivated, less productive and disengaged at work. This leads to frequent absenteeism in the workplace. With fewer employees functioning, your company will suffer a drop in productivity and performance, which risk your profitability.
Aside from the effect on individual employees, your business’ reputation can also take a hit.
Mass resignations can be caused due to employees shifting from being driven to being burnt out within the span of a few years. This can create a negative perception of your organization and it could affect your new employee intake. Around 86% of job seekers check reviews about a company before applying or accepting a position.
Various successful brands such as Uber, Amazon, and NBC Universal have suffered fallout from a toxic work environment. Negative reviews made by former employees have caused damage to their business image.
Responsibility Starts at the Top
According to a recent study of more than 1,400 global CEOs and board members, the war for talent is one of the companies’ most critical issues. Failing to address toxic behavior at work is a recipe for failure.
Here are 6 actions leaders can take to prevent high-performing bullies from driving away their best employees.
- Pay close attention to your culture
Toxic employees get away with their actions because the culture within their organization lets them. Leaders must know what they are tolerating in their own company.
So, as a leader, you must survey and observe the happenings inside your company. That way, you can pinpoint areas that are affected by the toxicity and address them before it causes more problems.
Find out what happens when an employee is reported as toxic to Human Resources. Will HR examine the issue fully? Do they ignore repeat complaints? Will they address the root cause?
- Establish a no-tolerance policy
To effectively eliminate toxic behavior in your organization, it is crucial that you adopt a stricter policy. A zero-tolerance policy makes it difficult for toxic employees to act with immunity. It also encourages victims to speak out and ensures that strict action toward perpetrators is conducted as swiftly as possible.
- Give direct feedback
Avoid making decisions based on rumors and assumptions. In many cases, toxic people are unaware of their effect on others. Often, these employees are surprised to hear that they are causing a hostile work environment.
Direct feedback is important as it allows your toxic employees to understand the problems they are causing. It also allows them to have the chance to change their behavior.
- State the consequences
At the same time, you should also explain what you expect to see from the employee moving forward. Actions should have consequences in the workplace. Your policies and code of conduct should be reviewed if the employee is unaware of the rules.
If the employee fails to make adjustments, or if the situation remains the same, you should consider terminating said employee.
- Separate toxic employees
If you cannot immediately remove the toxic employee, you can start isolating them first. This is so that the toxicity does not spread to other departments.
You can do this by rearranging seating arrangements in the office, reassigning projects, and limiting department meetings. Keep in mind that when dealing with toxic employees, you have to tread lightly. Encourage other employees to come to you with their complaints, and help minimize interactions with toxic colleagues.
- Consider coaching and training
Coaching is not only exclusive to well-behaved employees. In some cases, less-than-ideal employees should be given additional guidance and attention. You can provide behavior improvement training to help improve their workplace behavior. However, this only works if the person recognizes that they need a behavioral change and will fully embrace the opportunity.
Related read: 8 Signs of A Toxic Workplace (And Your Role In It)
Taking the necessary steps to eliminate toxic behavior
Toxic employees can destroy your company’s reputation and business. To have a healthy work environment, you must take the necessary steps to prevent toxic behavior in the organization.
Leaders and managers should create an environment where employees feel safe and supported at work. You should be aware of the effects of toxic individuals on the team and how to stop this behavior from affecting the team.
What steps have you taken in your organization to prevent toxicity from spreading?