3 Toxic Employees to Watch Out For in the Workplace

When many executives assess the overall health of their organization, they only look at the numbers – how much profit and loss the company experiences, how much revenue the company is bringing in each year – to determine if their company is ‘doing well.’ However, more often than not, evaluation through such a narrow lens causes those in leadership positions to miss out on a major opportunity for growth: analyzing the satisfaction of their organization’s workforce.

Studies have repeatedly shown that a company whose employees are happy, motivated and enthusiastic about their jobs performs better across the board than a company whose employees hate coming to work every day. The importance of good company morale cannot be overstated, and there are multiple ways that you, as an executive, can make sure that your employees are working in an atmosphere that is conducive to your company’s success.

Sometimes, changing a company’s culture is easy; simply put together an ice cream bar and hand out cards to each employee on his or her birthday, and you’re all set. More often, though, the process of changing how one’s employees feel about working for your company can seem like a nearly-insurmountable challenge. Interestingly, the answer to “how do I fix my corporate culture?” can be found in analyzing the exact people you are looking to please, and learning to recognize the different kinds of employees who may be hindering your company more than helping it.

Before I get to what kind of employees I’m referring to, it’s important to note that sometimes, the people who are the “best” at their job – the ones who make your company the most money or  close the highest number of deals – might be exactly the same people who are making your company a toxic place to work for their colleagues. This is often because the social skills that may make an employee a financial boon to the organization – say, bossiness, or an inability to take no for an answer – can do exactly the opposite when it comes to fostering community and support amongst your organization’s workforce. It can be a difficult thing to admit, but sometimes, one bad apple can be ruining the whole bunch in a way that you haven’t even realized – and it’s crucially important to address why that apple is bad and if that apple can ever turn good if you want to improve your company culture in the long run.

The first kind of employee to watch out for is The Griper. The Griper spends most of his time complaining, either about his coworkers, his clients, or his experiences. While you may think that a certain amount of complaining is alright, perhaps even necessary if we’re talking about fostering meaningful relationships between your employees, you’re right – but only that certain amount. If someone at your company is never happy, and has a tendency to use the workplace as an arena for venting their displeasure to any and everyone who will listen, then you must seriously analyze whether the benefits of their performance on the job outweigh the fact that their complaints are undoubtedly dragging down the morale of every other employee who comes into contact with them. Positive people, even those who do not have as much work experience, foster a spirit of camaraderie that is absolutely necessary if you want your workforce to feel good about working at your organization.

Another kind of employee that should be carefully monitored is The Fibber. This person doesn’t think twice about dropping white lies (or hurtful lies) into conversations with clients and colleagues alike. If you have an employee who relies on stretching facts and making false promises to get through life, then he is undoubtedly carrying this behavior into his interpersonal relationships at your company, which does nothing but undermine the truthful, hard-working employees of your organization and foster an environment in which deception is not only allowed, but welcomed – the opposite of the environment you should be looking to curate.

The third kind of employee that should raise major red flags in the mind of his superiors is The Crony. This can often be the hardest employee to look at objectively, because more often than not, The Crony has spent his entire time at your organization currying your favor and agreeing with you to make it seem like you are cut from the same cloth. Someone who cares more about getting in the good graces of his bosses than treating colleagues at his level or below with respect is a person who has more power to destroy company morale than you’d ever think. He may be treating others badly because he is secure in thinking that you would never let him go, but frankly, The Crony ultimately ends up reflecting very poorly on you, as your employees will always view his behavior as an extension of yours. 

These three archetypes wield tremendous influence over the corporate culture of your organization, and it is important to take stock of your employees every now and then to identify who already falls into – or is in danger of falling into – one or more of these categories. Second chances are all well and good, but if you notice that an employee’s behavior remains the same after being reprimanded for any of these behaviors, it is in your best interest – and the best interest of your company – to amicably part ways for the greater good of your organization’s health.

***This article originally appeared on my Leadership and Management blog at DavidTFischer.com.

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