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Toxic employees – do you have this cancer in your organization?

Whether as the VP of HR or as a consultant, one of my first actions is to attack the Toxic Employees straight on. After getting approval from the business owner, CEO or COO, one of the first things I would do is have a meeting with the Managers, Directors and VPs of the different departments of the organization. I would describe a Toxic Employee: low productivity and quality, constant complaining and whining, never having a reasonable solution to their own complaints, creating issues with other employees, they were cited as a reason when other employees quit, attendance issues – both coming in late or leaving early, always blaming everyone else and the list goes on and on.

After completing the description, the management group was asked “How many people have a name in their head of someone in your department who fits this description?” Almost always, everyone in the room would have at least one name. They were then directed to set up a meeting with me as soon as possible to either formulate an employee remediation or an exit plan. Toxic Employees come in two brands – they either had it when they arrived or they were created after they arrived. This distinction will almost always be the determining factor as to whether we will be able to remediate them or not.

Get the employee on a positive track or get them out of your organization

The largest obstacle in moving forward was from those very same Managers, Directors or VPs who would have some variation of “We need warm bodies”. My experience has been Toxic Employees are not even worth a warm body. For every positive thing they accomplish – they bring multiple negative effects. With the most damaging being their effect on the other employees. We have other strategies available to counteract the loss of the employee. One in particular, which I have described previously, that ramps up productivity quickly.

There is another reason why resolving this issue is so important. Moving forward with resolving your Toxic Employees will help you determine some of the root causes of your employee turnover. The vast majority of the issues brought forward by a Toxic Employee will not be true or relevant. However, many times they will report symptoms, correctly, which will lead you to a root cause. If you can remediate a Toxic Employee – you will obviously have a loyal employee. Furthermore, I have also found the new great employee will speak well of the organization for years to come and will help you create a positive Employee Brand.

How many Toxic Employees do you have and how much of a burden are they to your organization?