Do you have a toxic employee in your workplace?

Does your business (or a department within your business) suffer from any of the following symptoms:
  • High absenteeism;
  • High staff turnover rates;
  • Complaints about management?

If so, then these symptoms are a sign of low levels of engagement.  However, contrary to common belief, the problem may not lie with your disengaged employee. It could lie with an even bigger problem.

Why your disengaged employees may not be the problem

For two years at school I hated history.  If I could avoid class I would.  My homework was at best average and my grades reflected that.  In short, I was disengaged.  However when you looked at all my other subjects, my grades reflected a conscientious student always willing to go the extra mile. 

In other words, I wasn’t disengaged by nature.  When we come across a disengaged employee it is easy to think that he or she is disengaged by nature i.e. that’s just the way they are.  However they may not be the case.  Instead, it may be environmental factors causing the disengagement. 

So perhaps it is the job. Well, in my case it wasn’t history that was the problem.  I later went on to take History O and A levels and got some pretty good grades.  The problem was my teacher.

My teacher was toxic

Unfortunately, for two years I had a toxic history teacher.  By that I mean that he ruled his classes with an iron fist.  His method of teaching was to put his students in fear of transgressing his rules of engagement.  This stifled creativity and learning was by rote (i.e. memorisation and repetition).  For some, rote learning works, which means this teacher would get reasonable results at exam time, but learning under him was torture and he didn’t get the best out of his students.

A toxic employee works on a similar manner.  If you put a toxic employee on a scale of engagement, they may well come out at the high end of the scale.  They may work long hours and get good results.  Research tells us that an engaged employee is worth two ambivalent employees, so why would we do anything about them?

The damage caused by a toxic employee

Whilst an engaged employee may be worth two ambivalent employees, the damage a toxic employee causes to other employees around them far outweighs the advantage given by their high levels of engagement.  That’s because, just like my history teacher, a toxic employee leaves a trail of destruction behind them and causes all your other employees to become disengaged.  This has a direct impact on your bottom line through reduced sales (estimated at 60% lower for a disengaged workforce compared to an engaged workforce), higher absenteeism and higher staff turnover rates.

Don’t ignore the damage they are doing

Unfortunately, many businesses ignore toxic employees to their cost.  Research produced by Massey University in NZ revealed that within the hospitality, health, education and tourism industries 18% of people had been bullied in the workplace.  A bully is just another toxic employee, and they are everywhere in NZ business.  If you want to improve your bottom line, you need to tackle them sooner rather than later and not allow them to carry on their destructive ways.


Do you want to know how to deal with a toxic employee? Learn how to turn them round or exit them from your business by coming to our workshop on 10 August 2010. Book now to take advantage of the early bird offer (expires23 July 2010). To find out more about the workshop click here

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