For Halloween tomorrow, people will be dressing up as goblins and ghouls and seeking candy at every door. But for some managers, toxic personalities haunt their workplaces every day, escalating office tension and decreasing productivity. Some 94% of leaders say that they've had to deal with individuals who exhibit toxic behavior, which can quickly infect the whole workplace (Modern Healthcare, 8/2/14).
To eliminate harmful behavior and quell the destructive side effects of higher stress levels and decreased morale, managers need to understand how to identify and address toxic behaviors before their offices become a scene from a horror story.
Managers can usually spot the Slacker. These employees are loitering in people's cubicles for lengthy chats, taking long lunches, or aimlessly surfing the Internet. Slackers do only the bare minimum and often find reasons to transfer work they don't like to their coworkers. The projects they are given take twice as long to complete. Slackers want as little supervision as possible and love working with managers who won't confront performance issues.
To deal with a Slacker, managers need to set clear expectations with the employee and be comfortable asking why deadlines or quality standards are unmet. By having a one-on-one conversation and defining goals and milestones, a manager can ensure that the Slacker knows what is expected of them. Rewarding bad behavior by ignoring a Slacker or giving them easier or fewer projects is exactly what they want. Managers should be present in the workplace and make the connection between high performance and high rewards.
These types of toxic employees want to rise high in an organization, but often act out of envy or insecurity. If Underminers are going up against a coworker for a promotion, they'll try to sabotage their competition's reputation, work ethic, or performance. If they are working with a team on a large project, they'll try to take responsibility for the majority of success. Usually, the Underminer tries to surreptitiously damage a person or situation with well-placed comments or subtle praise of themselves.
Managers might appreciate an Underminer's ambition and drive, but they should realize that these toxic employees only care about their own position. Avoid giving Underminers undue credit and make sure to never take part in even subtle disparagement of other employees. Managers will need to be comfortable discussing how power grabs and sabotage will not advance an Underminer's goals and, if needed, leaders should be prepared to use their authority.
Tanks love the sound of their own voices. In meetings, they steamroll other participants and do the majority of the talking. In groups, they always try to take a leadership position. They have a high sense of entitlement and like to feel superior to others. Tanks like to brag about their own accomplishments but will never praise the good work of someone else.
Managers can stop a Tank from trampling over their coworkers by making sure that other staff members know their worth. Give space in meetings and in group projects for those besides Tanks to give opinions and take on leadership roles. Have a private conversation with a forceful Tank trying to take command of someone else's work or responsibility. Acknowledge their capability, but make it clear that the other staff members have their projects and tasks under control -- and if work needs to be monitored, you will take on that role as the leader of the team.
Constantly opposing and challenging authority, the Critic often portrays himself as a devil's advocate who is trying to produce the best possible product but is really seeking to sabotage work and create roadblocks. Critics focus on disagreement, obstacles, and problems, while rarely working toward solutions. They crave independence and authority and will disagree with coworkers and managers to establish their power.
Managers should not be intimidated by a Critic; however, they should not let anger at the constant disagreement influence their judgment. Instead, managers should try and determine a Critic's career goals and point out how constant opposition will hinder achieving them. When they can only talk about problems, managers need to instead probe for solutions from the Critic.
Every manager has had to deal with an employee who never takes responsibility and always has an excuse for missed deadlines, errors, and poor work. The Victim shifts blame to other people or circumstances. They are unreliable and produce mediocre work at best, but they never take ownership of the results. A Victim's mantra is "It's not my fault."
Managers need to have a conversation with their Victim employees and outline the performance expectations and deadline objectives for the individual. Make sure to have a structured system for progress updates and avenues to collaborate if the employee runs into challenges. Managers should reinforce good performance and behavior by praising high-quality work.
Readers, which of these toxic personalities have you run into at work? How did you handle it? Send us your comments at: http://tradepost.selectfamily.com/index.cfm/2014/10/30/toxic-employees