How to deal with toxic employees

May 10, 2016

How to deal with toxic employees

Having the required skill set for a job is a step in the right direction towards being employed, but is only half of the process of getting a job, the other half is down to a person’s personality, character and ability to show competence in dealing with other people at work. A growing problem in the workplace is the levels of toxicity that are allowed to thrive unnoticed.

Often managers within large corporations and ones that do not get that involved with all the team are less likely to pick up toxic behaviour unless they are notified. This is another reason why as a manager, it is very important to stay close with your team at all times.

A more subtle behavioural pattern of a toxic employee is procrastination, it may not directly affect others but it certainly is an undesired trait of a person that needs to be fixed.

Managers sometime ignore the toxic person because the work they produce is amazing, however the damage these employees do to others means they aren’t worth keeping the skill onboard because it drags everyone down. Another reason as to how it goes undetected comes down to social stigmas for the victim to not want to report it in fear of being ridiculed further for reporting it to a member of authority.

Not all offenders are flat out openly nasty towards others and a more discreet form of this is passive aggressiveness. It is more common for this to appear in workplaces because it isn’t easy to pick up and is more easily hid or disguised. An employee that is the victim of passive aggressive behavior from another employee can suffer quite a lot of psychological harm, confidence loss and other negative effects.

If anti-social behaviour manages to fly under the radar for too long or if the manager doesn’t actively seek to eliminate it, employees will naturally have a lack of faith in a manager and the organisation due to their failure to put anything into action. This can translate into more severe consequences, it could lead to employees leaving or not putting in effort to their work as often due to their mind set being altered.

List possible causes of toxic organisational behaviour (TOB) and possible fixes:


During the hiring process of a potential employee, many interviewers may see a person's skillset and be too keen to hire them. An employee that is over qualified for a job may actually pose potential problems for a company. For this reason some people do get turned down for being overqualified because they are likely to be faced with situations where they will be working with colleagues who will not have as much experience or skills as them, which can be frustrating. They will be completing the tasks with too much ease and may seek a harder challenge, which means the employer will always be fighting a battle to keep the employee at the company.

All of these factors combined can lead to irritation, boredom, resentment and an  almost narcissistic outlook on the job in the eyes of the overqualified employee.



As a manager, it may not be obvious that an employee is dissatisfied in their job or role, however, as a manager it is important to have frequent one to ones with employees or become more approachable so that your employees feel comfortable to raise their concerns to you. If help is requested from you in the form of employee training, counselling sessions, pay rise or even a job role switch, you should try to provide for them if it is in reason.

This dissatisfaction may result in agitation and irritation, where the employee takes these emotions out on fellow colleagues as they do not know how to express themselves in a constructive way.


Individual based and not able to work in a team

An employee should be expected to work well in a team. This is one of the most important factors when hiring somebody as a lot of work in an office is based around communication and working together for a common goal. If however, there is a person who does not work efficiently and friendly in a team, it can cause problems as they may exhibit toxic behaviours when pushed into team based activities.

A simple way to fix this is to put the person in question into a team building activity and try to smooth out any problems they are having. An alternative, depending on how much you value their work, is to assign them tasks they can do individually. This approach works around their issue rather than trying to change them.


The procrastinator

Procrastinators tend to waste time and are not that efficient. A way to approach this type is to assign micro-deadlines for tasks and attempt to put some structure to their daily tasks or hold them accountable for certain tasks, the responsibility will make them take things seriously. Perhaps looking into hr software can help you manage and track how employees are performing.

Subscribe to our Newsletter