All posts by Trish Barnes

Signs You’re Dealing with a “Toxic Employee”

Everyone has their ups and downs and off days. At what point does a difficult employee become a toxic employee? There are several definitive signs.


They Constantly Stir the Pot

Maybe they’re the one who always initiates harmful workplace gossip. Or maybe they spread lies and rumors to deliberately create dissension among your team. Whatever the case may be, a toxic employee can’t help but stir the pot. It’s just part of their nature. Wherever they go, conflict follows them, and it inevitably “infects your workplace.”


They Make Excuses for Their Shortcomings

Do you have an employee who’s incapable of owning up to their mistakes? Even worse, do they have the unsavory habit of blaming others when things go awry? If this is a chronic issue, you’re most likely dealing with someone with toxic tendencies.


A Bad Attitude is Their Default Setting

You can’t expect an employee to be 100 percent enthusiastic all of the time. Everyone experiences obstacles and hardships. However, a toxic employee will continually bring a bad attitude to your workplace, which can manifest itself in a variety of ways. Some examples include:

  • Constantly complaining
  • Looking for negatives in every situation
  • Getting frustrated at seemingly minor setbacks
  • Having zero enthusiasm

This is problematic because a bad attitude like this can spread to your other employees and damage your collective morale.


They Harass Co-workers

Once it gets to the point of harassment where an employee actually bullies others, there’s no denying that they have become toxic. This is obviously going to create an uncomfortable atmosphere where team members dread the thought of coming to work. It can lead to a higher absenteeism/tardiness rate and just think of the long-term impact on retention if you’ve got someone tearing others down.


Their Colleagues Don’t Want to Work with Them

If you’re finding that the rest of your staff are reluctant to work with a particular employee or you’re getting complaints from multiple parties, then you’ve got a problem on your hands. Although having tension between them and one other employee isn’t necessarily a cause for concern, issues with the majority of your workforce most definitely is. This is tangible evidence of a problematic pattern that should be addressed.


You’re Getting Complaints from Customers or Clients

There’s no denying the gravity of the situation when customers or clients begin to complain. Getting to this level shows that an employee’s poor behavior has transcended your workforce and is now afflicting your company on a much larger scale. This could potentially cost your business and hurt your brand reputation. Immediate intervention is vital.

There’s a big difference between a difficult employee and a toxic one. If you find that you’re dealing with the latter, resolve the situation with clear behavioral expectations or plan to let them go. If not, it can seriously disrupt your business and even cost you money.


The Pros and Cons of Unlimited Vacation Days

Forget two weeks vacation. More and more companies are now offering unlimited vacation days and seeing surprisingly favorable results. Brands like GrubHub, Evernote, Netflix and even General Electric have taken the plunge. Before you send your employees off for a tropical getaway, gain a thorough understanding of the implications.


The Pros

An Excellent Recruiting Tool

The talent level of your workforce inevitably impacts your company’s bottom line. Recruiting the best and brightest puts you at a competitive advantage that can pay dividends long-term. It’s safe to say that offering unlimited vacation days can be a tremendous asset for recruiting, especially for the younger generations of millennials and Gen Z’ers who don’t want work to dominate their lives.


Healthier Work/Life Balance

There’s a lot of talk about achieving a healthy work/life balance these days. Modern employees are becoming collectively burned out with the increasingly long work weeks and looking to reduce their stress. What better way to recharge your employees’ batteries than offering unlimited vacation days?


Improved Morale

Combine increased job satisfaction with less stress and more time for employees to focus on their personal lives, and you’re bound to experience improved morale. This can translate into a host of benefits like increased productivity, lower absenteeism/tardiness, and reduced turnover.


The Cons

Not Viable for All Industries

Unlimited vacation days may work well for a small tech startup where hours don’t really matter as long as the job gets done. But it can be a disaster for a larger manufacturing company where the number of hours worked directly impacts output and productivity.


It Can Lead to Abuse

Let’s be honest. Most companies are bound to have a few employees who are a little too willing to take full advantage of this type of working arrangement. In turn, it can be a catalyst for indolence.


It Can Be a Scheduling Nightmare

Coordinating long-term projects can be next to impossible when you’re not sure who’s going to be available. It can be especially problematic if there’s a “linchpin” employee whose absence throws the entire operations off.


Is it Feasible for Your Company?

Implementing a vacation policy such as this demands careful consideration. It’s by no means something you want to jump into on a whim. Some key factors to consider include your industry, working environment and just how comfortable you feel with the idea.

If you do decide to allow unlimited vacation days, establish parameters that dictate how far in advance employees must notify you before they go on vacation. This should minimize disruptions and ensure that you have adequate manpower on any given day. Be sure to address this on your company’s vacation policy. You can find a sample unlimited vacation policy template from Workable.

Going all-in on unlimited vacation days has become fairly mainstream, but it’s not right for everyone. Carefully weighing the pros and cons and assessing the needs of your company should let you know whether it’s a viable move or not.


Introverted vs Extroverted Employees – How to Motivate Both

In the past, most employers didn’t give all that much thought to differing personality types. That has changed in recent times. Now, more and more employers are putting forth the effort to understand the differences between introverted and extroverted employees — their mindset, strengths and weaknesses, or optimal working style. Grasping the characteristics of each personality type is critical for motivating both and for creating a harmonious workplace.


A Person’s Source of Energy

Although there is some degree of overlap between introverts and extroverts, there are fundamental traits that each group possesses. Essentially, it’s a matter of how a person draws their energy.

According to California State University Chico, “Extroverts are people who get their energy from external stimuli, such as personal interaction, social gatherings, and shared ideas. Introverts, on the other hand, tend to find social interaction and gatherings draining and are best able to process information and think creatively in a private setting.”

Understanding these fundamental differences is the first step in setting up both introverted and extroverted employees for success.


Traits of Introverted Employees

Introverts tend to be reserved and hesitant to share their ideas. They prefer to work either alone or in small groups, typically with a max of three other people. Most feel “drained” if they’re constantly interacting throughout the day or forced to be part of a large group. They can become easily distracted with excessive external stimuli. Introverts may also come across as being distant or aloof at times.

In terms of their strengths, they’re great at introspection and have impressive problem-solving skills. Their level of concentration is unparalleled, and they are often capable of creating highly detailed plans.


How to Motivate Introverts

  • Allow them to work in solitude if desired
  • Minimize their distractions
  • Try not to bombard them with multiple projects at once
  • Offer telecommuting opportunities if it’s feasible
  • Recognize their efforts in private (Introverts tend to feel uncomfortable in the spotlight with all eyes on them)
  • Encourage them to share their ideas (Consider alternatives to traditional meetings such as email)


Traits of Extroverted Employees

Extroverts feel quite comfortable in a social setting and are usually quick to share their ideas. They thrive in large groups and may feel under-stimulated when working alone or in a small group. Most enjoy collaborating with a team and feel energized when there’s a lot of interaction. They’re usually friendly and quick to volunteer for most projects.


How to Motivate Extroverts

  • Assign them to team projects whenever possible
  • Try to maintain a collaborative environment
  • Allow them to take on multiple projects if they want
  • Present them with challenges when the situation calls for it
  • Recognize their accomplishments publicly


Introverts and extroverts both add value in their own special way. Understanding and acknowledging the differences between the two is the first step to extracting their full potential. By pulling the right strings and motivating each personality type, you can create a more cohesive workplace and get the most from your talent pool.

Top Exit Interview Questions

When a valued employee walks out, it can hurt productivity, diminish morale and generally throw a wrench in operations. One way you can reduce turnover long-term is to ask the right exit interview questions to better understand why an employee is leaving.


Why are you leaving your position?

Asking an employee point blank why they’re leaving will give you insight into their logic and any motivating factors behind their decision. This will let you know if it’s due to something your company did or whether the employee is simply heading for greener pastures.


What was the biggest factor in your decision to leave?

In many cases, there’s a singular catalyst that causes someone to leave their job. Identifying the primary factor can be extremely enlightening and will let you know precisely what sparked this move.

According to a Gallup study, “50 percent of the 7,200 adults surveyed left a job to get away from their manager.” If there’s a particular leader that drove a former employee to quit, you’ll definitely want to know about it.


What could our company have done to influence you to stay?

Asking what you could have done differently points out potential deficiencies you might address within your business. Perhaps you need to tweak a policy, offer more robust benefits, or more flexible scheduling for a healthier work/life balance. Whatever the case may be, this question will help you better the company for the rest of your employees.


What would you change about your job?

If you’re able to trace an employee’s departure to a specific area of their job, you’ll know what adjustments to make to prevent other employees from jumping ship in the future. It can also tell you a lot about which aspects of a position an employee finds the most unsavory.


Which areas could we improve on?

There’s always room for improvement. Try to find at least three definitive areas where your company is lacking. Unearthing this information is the first step to getting things back on track and increasing job satisfaction for your remaining team members.


Do you have any unresolved issues?

You always want a former employee to go out on good terms. If they have any unfinished business with a certain manager, colleague or your business as a whole, it’s nice if you can resolve it. This may not always be the most comfortable question to ask, but it’s best to get it out in the open right then rather than hearing it through office gossip.

Asking this question can also minimize the chances of a disgruntled former employee launching a smear campaign and dragging your brand’s name through the mud.

Employee retention is vital. In fact, TLNT reports, “Nearly four out of five (78 percent) business leaders rank employee retention as important or urgent.” While asking these exit interview questions won’t stop the employee at hand from leaving, it can supply you with valuable intel that you can use to prevent other employees from doing the same.

Two Qualified Candidates – How do you choose?

Most employers would consider having to choose between two qualified candidates as a good problem to have. Nonetheless, it’s still a problem and requires careful consideration on your end.

You want to ensure that you decide on the person who’s most likely to flourish in their position. So what’s the best way to make the choice?


Consider Key Skills

One of the most critical factors to consider is key skills. Obviously, both candidates have skills and experiences that match the job description. But which one possesses the skills that closest match what you’re looking for?

Conventional hard skills are very important but don’t forget about soft skills such as self-motivation, decisiveness and conflict resolution. Often, it’s these soft skills which aren’t so easily quantifiable that shed light on who the ideal candidate truly is.


Examine Past Promotions

Another way to gauge an individual’s likelihood of success is to examine past promotions. Brian Rudolph, Managing Director with Minnesota executive recruiters SkyWater Search Partners has an insightful quote. “If you have two great candidates with comparable skills, but one of them has consistently been promoted within their current employer, you may have just found the ‘right’ candidate and a future leader for your organization.”


Decide Who’s the Better Fit Culturally

Company culture is a big deal these days. Generally speaking, candidates who fit in with the culture of a company are more likely to succeed than those who do not. If it’s obvious that a particular candidate shares the same philosophy, values, and vision of your company, they’re likely to be a good fit. On the other hand, a candidate with directly opposing views could create friction within your organization.

Throw in a few questions regarding culture to determine which candidate is the better fit. If you’re not sure what to ask, consult this guide from The Balance for 18 cultural fit job interview questions.


Factor in Enthusiasm

Enthusiasm is also important. If someone is genuinely enthusiastic about their job, it can translate into a host of positive benefits such as increased productivity, stronger work ethic and a more serious commitment to your company. If it’s clear that one candidate is far more enthusiastic than the other, they’re probably the better choice.


Ask a “Tie-Breaker” Question

When all else fails, you can always ask a single question to serve as a tie-breaker between two qualified candidates. This is similar to the psychological concept of running a controlled experiment where extraneous variables are controlled.

By asking the exact same question and weighing the results, you should be able to make your final decision with a greater degree of certainty. Or if a question just won’t cut it, you could also give both candidates a “practice project.”

Regardless of who you choose, you’re likely to wind up with a good employee on your hands. However, you still want to take every step possible to select the better of the two qualified candidates. Following these tips should help you cover all of your bases to find a home run.