1 Sept 2021

The Art of Managing A Toxic Workmate

Digiora Technologies Pvt Ltd

There's always going to be a rotten apple - a toxic employee - in a team. It has been so right from the start of organized work. And it is quite easy to spot them (online or offline) when you see them engaging in:

  • Blame games and backstabbing
  • Agreeing in meeting but not following through later
  • Acing at spreading rumors
  • Withholding information for personal gain
  • Looks at undermining others
  • Plays politics for personal agendas

A toxic employee is not the same as a difficult employee. How they play out in a team can harm or influence others negatively, eroding the core of team culture. But let’s also face this - there is nothing legal you can do about it. Especially if the employee is “good” for the team or company because of some aspects.

Here’s what you can do instead.

Have a deep, honest conversation.

If you, as a manager or HR is not taking this, you are 100% ensuring that the person continues in his toxic trajectory. Ask why, for instance, the person is unhappy or frustrated with coworkers (or life)? We can surely offer a reason within your ambit. Even simple yet often overlooked steps like counseling or time off from work can potentially alleviate the underlying issue.

And feedback is just as important. Perhaps they were too focused on their own behaviors, that they weren’t aware of the broader impact. Obviously it doesn’t mean jumping the gun and saying, “You’re a pain”!

Time to own your game

There is no need to stoop to their level. But there is definitely a need to check on yourself, especially if you are on the receiving end. It is a struggle, but infinitely better to focus on being in tune with team goals, irrespective of how the toxic person plays out. Set a personal standard on how you interact with the rest of the team in terms of collaboration and open dialogue. Also, document your meeting with these employees, preferably with a co-worker.

Talk with your higher-ups

If they haven’t changed for the better, it is time to take it up with your boss. Of course, if you want to establish a pattern of behavior by a toxic employee, we should base it on information, or documentation of meetings as mentioned above, or even anonymous peer reviews. The idea is to protect yourself and the company strictly professionally.

Separate the bad apple from the rest.

This is a more subtle manner in which an HR or boss can handle a reported toxic employee. When there is physical or team function related distance between the offender and the rest of the there should be an improvement to the situation. An HR expert called this step as “immunizing” the others with an adequate amount of discretion. It is also a more immediate action, instead of getting wrapped up in the do’s and don’ts.

How would you handle a toxic employee? Let us know on our social media pages -

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