Tag Archives: difficult employees

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.


How to Deal with Problem Employees

Running a business comes with many obstacles and challenges — and effectively managing a variety of personalities to create team cohesion is a big part of success. Unfortunately, nearly every business owner has dealt with or will deal with a problem employee at some time or another. These individuals are notorious for creating strife, stirring up drama and generally making things difficult on everyone else.


What is a Problem Employee?

A problem employee is a term that’s defined on the Reference for Business website as “A worker who fails to conduct himself or herself in a responsible, professional manner in the workplace.” Their behavior can manifest itself in a myriad of ways including excessive tardiness/absenteeism, poor attitude, creating perpetual conflicts with other employees and more.

In a best case scenario, problem employees can reduce the quality of company culture and put a damper on productivity. In a worst case scenario, they can upset operations, ruin your reputation and kill your profitability.


The Negative Impact

There are specific ways that problem employees can hurt a business:

  • Spreading a bad attitude
  • Creating a more stressful working environment
  • Straining working relationships
  • Damaging rapport with customers/clients
  • Contributing to a high turnover rate

Whether it’s because a person is lazy, apathetic, chronically late, disrespectful, aggressive or displays any other unsavory traits, this negativity will usually permeate throughout your entire business and is going to throw a wrench in operations.


How to Manage Behavior

Workplace policies that govern performance and behavior provide a good foundation for dealing with problem employees. These will clarify your expectations of employees and define acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. Include topics like attendance, performance expectations, what constitutes abusive language/behavior and grounds for termination.

Next, you’ll want to establish a disciplinary process that all employees will undergo if they violate company policies. It’s usually best to have a three-step process:

  1. Employee receives a verbal warning
  2. Employee gets written up and reprimanded
  3. Employee is terminated

In order to stay compliant with laws/regulations and avoid unnecessary litigation, it’s important to treat all employees the same and hold everyone to the same standard.


Being Proactive

When it comes to addressing problem employees and their negative behavior, it’s crucial that it’s done in a timely manner. As Barney Fife would say, “You’ve got to nip it in the bud.” Take control of the situation and address it right away to prevent the problem from worsening. Many times, this will prevent a minor problem from snowballing into a major one, keeping operations on track.

Finally, address the problem behavior, not the person. Taking an adversarial tone will only escalate the situation and make matters worse. Remember to present the facts with the ultimate goal of improving the employee’s performance.


The chance of encountering problem employees at some point is high. Creating a game plan can minimize any problems and keep things running smoothly. Keep your business plan and philosophy in mind to remind you of your ultimate goals as a company.