Two things I’ve been reading a lot about lately are Michael Jackson and toxic employees. I’ll refrain from sharing my two-cents about Michael Jackson, I’m sure you’ve already heard more than enough. But I do want to toss out some thoughts about toxic employees.
There’s no denying that organizations are occasionally faced with toxic or cancerous employees. These folks can suck the life out of even the best run businesses. And, they need to be dealt with.
But, before you do, it’s important to make sure you properly assess toxic behavior.
- A person who’s negative because they’ve been treated poorly by their manager or coworker isn’t toxic.
- A person who is vocal and persistent about holding their manager or coworker accountable isn’t noxious.
- A person who refuses to condone unethical/illegal/immoral behavior isn’t cancerous.
Toxic employees are people who are negative and undermine the organization for no reason. They do it for sport or for their own personal gain – to the detriment of the organization. People who are perceived as negative because they aren’t “yes” men (or women) are victims. Big difference, folks.
If you suspect you might have a toxic employee on your hands, here’s my suggestion. Before giving them that label, take a moment to uncover the source of the negativity. Is it possible the situation has been created by something internal to the organization (like a manager or coworker)? If so, determine if there’s a way to work towards repairing the damage and preventing a re-occurrence.
Throughout my career I’ve actually found, more often than not, employees labeled as toxic are really people who’ve been unfortunately subjected to mismanaged egos, questionable ethics, and just plain inconsiderate behavior. Before jumping to the conclusion that someone is toxic, I strongly encourage their leaders to take an honest look in the mirror.0