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How to Manage Toxic Employees in an Organization?

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Abstract and Figures

Organizations are built and run by the people who are employed in them. Toxicity in an organization is an intense energy-sapping negative emotion of employees which disconnects them from their job, colleagues and organization. Toxicity in employees is purely a psychological trait of people, which varies with the culture and overall environment of the workplace and/or is also related to their personal issues. Toxic employees could harm the organization deliberately or unknowingly due to their personal psychological attributes or deliberate actions. The negative behaviour of the employees not only affect the organization itself but also the other efficient workers. Therefore, it is very important to identify such people through their everyday attitude and commitment towards the job assigned to them. In some cases, they may be recognized through their usual sentences they speak, their routine to come to office, their attitude towards colleagues, etc. There are several types of toxic people with variants but most common are, the excuse-maker, the one who leaves office when boss exits, the one who is not liked by others, the grump, lose tempered, gossip, untrustworthy, dishonest, narcissist, the one who cannot sick to a decision, the one who always wants help from others, and the bully. To progress, an organization should avoid or at least manage such people at workplace to reduce the damage. To resolve the issues with toxins, an effective strategy must be put in place to tackle these people in the organizations. The important steps which could be taken to manage the toxicity in employees are to dig deeper and find the underlying cause for such behaviour through formal and information meetings with them and try to resolve the issues they are facing, if possible. Talk to them and giving them direct feedback and follow the response, issue warnings, separate them from other employees to reduce the damage and documenting everything about them. These steps usually help in controlling the situation and bring the toxic employee back to become a part of useful workforce.
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How to Manage Toxic Employees in an
Organization?
By
Muhammad Usman
Report submitted to the department of communication and
management sciences at PIEAS in fulfillment of requirements for SOMC
Department of Communication and Management Sciences
Pakistan Institute of Engineering & Applied
Sciences,
Nilore, Islamabad, Pakistan.
September, 2018
ii
Declaration of Originality
I hereby declare that the work contained in this report and the intellectual content
of this report are the product of my own work. This report has not been previously
published in any form nor does it contain any verbatim of the published resources
which could be treated as infringement of the international copyright law.
I also declare that I do understand the terms ‘copyright’ and plagiarism,’ and
that in case of any copyright violation or plagiarism found in this work, I will be held
fully responsible of the consequences of any such violation.
Signature: ____________________________
Name:_______Muhammad Usman_________
Date: __________04-09-2018_____________
Place: _______PIEAS, Islamabad__________
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Table of Contents
Table of Contents ....................................................................................................... iii
List of Figures ............................................................................................................... v
Abstract ........................................................................................................................ vi
1Introduction .......................................................................................................... 1
2Materials and Methods ........................................................................................ 5
2.1Types of Toxic Employees ...................................................................... 5
2.1.1The Excuse-Maker ............................................................................ 5
2.1.2The One Who Leaves Work as soon as Boss Exits .......................... 5
2.1.3Not Liked by Others ......................................................................... 6
2.1.4The Grump – Unhappy One ............................................................. 6
2.1.5The Lose Tempered .......................................................................... 6
2.1.6The Gossip – Chatter ........................................................................ 7
2.1.7Untrustworthy and Dishonest ........................................................... 7
2.1.8The Narcissist ................................................................................... 7
2.1.9Who Cannot Stick to a Decision ....................................................... 8
2.1.10Help Wanting .................................................................................... 8
2.1.11The Bully .......................................................................................... 8
2.2Separating and Identifying Toxins ........................................................... 9
2.3Remedies .................................................................................................. 9
2.3.1Delve Deeper by Productive Conversation ...................................... 9
2.3.2Give Them Constructive Feedback ................................................ 10
2.3.3Explain the Consequences .............................................................. 10
2.3.4Make Record of Everything ........................................................... 10
2.3.5Separate the Toxins from Other Team Members ........................... 11
2.3.6Do Not Get Distracted .................................................................... 11
2.3.7Comment on Behaviour, Not the Character ................................... 11
2.4Summarizing the Remedies ................................................................... 12
3Results and Discussions ..................................................................................... 13
3.1Case Study #1 ........................................................................................ 13
3.1.1Remedy ........................................................................................... 13
3.2Case Study # 2 ....................................................................................... 14
3.2.1Remedy ........................................................................................... 15
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3.3Case Study # 3 ....................................................................................... 15
3.3.1Remedy ........................................................................................... 16
3.4Case Study # 4 ....................................................................................... 16
3.4.1Remedy ........................................................................................... 17
4Summary and Conclusions................................................................................ 18
5References ........................................................................................................... 20
Vitea…………………...………………………………………………………..21
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List of Figures
Figure 1.1 A schematic understanding of the toxic employees, which shows that the
toxic employees in an organization are the one who has lower (negative)
commitment level while having higher competence level (positive). .......... 3
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Abstract
Organizations are built and run by the people who are employed in them.
Toxicity in an organization is an intense energy-sapping negative emotion of
employees which disconnects them from their job, colleagues and organization.
Toxicity in employees is purely a psychological trait of people, which varies with the
culture and overall environment of the workplace and/or is also related to their
personal issues. Toxic employees could harm the organization deliberately or
unknowingly due to their personal psychological attributes or deliberate actions. The
negative behaviour of the employees not only affect the organization itself but also
the other efficient workers. Therefore, it is very important to identify such people
through their everyday attitude and commitment towards the job assigned to them. In
some cases, they may be recognized through their usual sentences they speak, their
routine to come to office, their attitude towards colleagues, etc. There are several
types of toxic people with variants but most common are, the excuse-maker, the one
who leaves office when boss exits, the one who is not liked by others, the grump, lose
tempered, gossip, untrustworthy, dishonest, narcissist, the one who cannot sick to a
decision, the one who always wants help from others, and the bully. To progress, an
organization should avoid or at least manage such people at workplace to reduce the
damage. To resolve the issues with toxins, an effective strategy must be put in place
to tackle these people in the organizations. The important steps which could be taken
to manage the toxicity in employees are to dig deeper and find the underlying cause
for such behaviour through formal and information meetings with them and try to
resolve the issues they are facing, if possible. Talk to them and giving them direct
feedback and follow the response, issue warnings, separate them from other
employees to reduce the damage and documenting everything about them. These steps
usually help in controlling the situation and bring the toxic employee back to become
a part of useful workforce.
1
1 Introduction
Management of organizations has now become full scale scientific endeavor
involving research at each and every aspect, ranging from the behaviour of the
employees to the physical appearance of the workplace. In recent years, a stronger
focus has been put towards the understanding of the psychological attributes of the
workers in all types of organizations, whether they are efficient or otherwise.
There are “people” who build and run an organization in an effective manner.
The success of an organization is strongly dependent on organizational culture,
environment, and the attitude and behaviour of the people who are employed in it, i.e.
work force. Anything wrong among these three pillars leads to an ineffective or
inefficient organization. Among these, the most important is the workforce, which is
most difficult to deal with. The employees are persons and every person has different
psychological traits, so their response to the situations is varied and diversified.
Therefore, dealing with employees requires high level of emotional intelligence.
The employees are hired to perform in the betterment and to perform the tasks for
which the of the organization is established. However, there are certain employees
who are harmful, and their presence have negative impact. These employees not only
affect the overall environment of the workplace, but they also affect the co-workers as
well as assets of the organization. These workers are termed as toxic.
The organizational toxicity had been a focus of management experts and
researcher due to the realization of importance of the subject in the organizational
management. The concept can be described as a ‘‘pain that strips people of their self-
esteem and that disconnects them from their work’’ [1], in the workplace. Toxicity
can be observed by the toxins within the organization which lead to a toxic
organization. It is an intense energy-sapping negative emotion of employees which
disconnects them from their job, colleagues and organization, and as a result affects
the overall performance of the organization.
Generally, toxicity in employees is linked with the behavioural issues that are
generated due to external factors of the psychological attributes of the employees.
These issues can be linked with painful emotions that are inevitably part of
organizational life or to a certain extent personal / family related issues. When these
problems are not addressed they (toxic employees) become toxic for the organization
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resulting in overall reduction in the performance. Toxic employees adversely affect
the productivity of the organization through demoting and infuriating the rest of the
good employees and increasing the frustration in their co-workers. Toxicity in
organizations is spread at various levels, such as there could be toxic leaders, toxic
managers, toxic workers, and toxic culture. These terms are now appearing with
higher frequency in business management, leadership, and related literature, to
delimitate the toxins which make an organization a toxic [2].
A more formal definition of a toxic worker is: a worker that engages in
behaviour that is harmful to an organization, including either its property or people
[3].
Having a toxic employee in an organization is costlier than having a bad
employee. Their behaviour affects the entire workforce and prevents to hiring a better
fit to the organization. Generally, toxic employees tend to share common characters
such as negative attitudes, unaccountability and disorganized, lacking in credibility,
resistance to change in assignments, aggressive and highly-defensive behaviour.
Therefore, it can be concurred that the toxicity in employees is all about their
commitment with their job and the organization; no matter if they are competent or
not, they are harmful.
Figure 1.1 illustrates the identification of toxic employees in an organization. Let
us consider commitment of employees on a scale from -10 to +10, and another scale
of competence from -10 to +10 perpendicular to the previous one. There are certain
people who have negative level of competence and negative level of commitment
(quadrant I), they are never suitable to an organization. Some employees have positive
level of commitment but negative level of competence (quadrant II), such people need
training to improve their competence. But there are some people who fall in quadrant
IV, i.e. they have high level of commitment as well as positive attitude. These types
of people are best for a progressive organization. Now consider certain type of people
who have high (positive) level of competence but lowest (negative) level of
commitment. These are the people who fall in quadrant III of figure 1.1. Such people
are classified as TOXIC for an organization. These people have certain typical
attributes which are described in chapter 2 of this report.
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Figure 1.1 A schematic understanding of the toxic employees, which shows that the toxic
employees in an organization are the one who has lower (negative) commitment level while having
higher competence level (positive).
In recent years, Harvard Business School has conducted a study [3] of more than
60,000 employees and the study found that hiring a “superstar performer” (quadrant
IV in figure 1.1) employee who models desired values and delivers consistent
performance brings in more than $5,300 in cost savings to an organization. However,
a toxic hire costs $12,500 in to the organization.
The study says that the cost of incivility can run into the millions, because
employees subjected to incivility in the workplace experience weak bonds with their
work life. Nearly half of such employees decreased (their) work effort and
intentionally spent less time at work. The study also revealed that 38% of them
intentionally decreased the quality of their work, and 25% of employees who had
been treated with incivility admitted to taking their frustrations out on customers,
resulting in reduced customers for future. It was also observed that 12% toxins left
their jobs due to uncivil treatment.
Toxic employees also isolate their co-workers and team members, which directly
impacts the organization’s performance. The Harvard study also revealed that 80% of
such employees lost work time worrying about the offending employee's rudeness.
78% said their commitment to the organization declined in the face of toxic
behaviour, and 66% said that their performance was declined.
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The present report will explore the concept of toxicity in an organization, its
direct as well as indirect effects on the organization itself and the employees. Before
jumping into the effects of toxins on the organization, it is important to distinguish
various toxins such as, toxic leader, toxic manager, and toxic employee. In the end,
few solutions to deal with this problem will be identified.
The report is organized in such a way that the introduction section gives the basic
idea of the toxicity in an organization, toxic employees, and their role in the
organization. The second section deals with the types of toxic employees and how to
identify them. The third section gives the remedy as well as few case studies to
exemplify the solution. The last section concludes the discussion.
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2 Materials and Methods
There are different types of toxicities present in employees, which are mainly
linked with the psychology of every person, as described previously. These
employees can be separately identified by carefully observing the behaviours of
employees and can be classified in various categories. However, few types of people
are commonly found in the organizations. The usual signs of such people are
described in following sections. All these types are toxic employees can be identified
through their common behavioural attributes, body language, and their statements.
These classifications and their identification through statements is described below
[4,5,6]:
2.1 Types of Toxic Employees
In the following sections, few common types of toxic employees are identified
and described in detail. Their common attributes and common phrases which reflect
their behaviour towards their job can be reflected are mentioned.
2.1.1 The Excuse-Maker
This type of employee is the one who always tries to avoid work. The usual
statements of such kind of worker are, "Oh well, that's their problem", “That’s not my
job”, "This is stupid" or “I am not trained for this job”, etc.
This kind of a worker either tries to question the task or tries to pick up a co-
worker who would be willing to do this specific job. In an organization there should
never be a job that is someone else’s problem. Even in special circumstances, a
common problem appeared at work place is everyone’s job, even they are not trained
for handling this.
2.1.2 The One Who Leaves Work as soon as Boss Exits
This type of employee is the one who doesn't care about his job or assigned task.
He is always in search of an opportunity when his boss leaves his office, he wants to
take advantage of it. For such kind of employee other than his job commitments are
more important, which is why he is always looking a chance to leave the office when
his boss is not around. He also tries to engage his co-workers to say some lie in case
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the boss is back and asks for him. The usual statements of such employees are, “I
have an urgent appointment, please handle it with the boss if he is back (to co-
worker)” or “I need to leave early due to bla bla bla…..”
2.1.3 Not Liked by Others
There are usually people in an organization who are not liked due their behaviour
or other personal characteristics. As a result, several people (say three or more)
complain about them. Such workers are usually problem makers unless there is an
element of jealousy present in other employees due to his extraordinary performance.
Where there's smoke there's often fire. It is therefore, important to single out such
employee. The root cause of such toxicity can be easily identified through the conduct
of this kind of employee.
2.1.4 The Grump – Unhappy One
There are some people who habitually complain at work about various things
such as personal matters, official matters, office policies, environment, society,
national and regional politics, etc. They usually discuss such things with their co-
workers, wasting their own and other’s time and demoralizing them. Because of this
habit they always find something to complain about in office such as services from
other departments within organization, work environment, behaviour of the boss,
behaviour of the colleagues, amenities at workplace etc. Such people are also unhappy
about their personal life, in addition of office life. The usual phrases one can hear
from them all the time are; “I never get response from ….. department for my things”,
“Nobody is in my favor”, “Why do things like this happen all the time?” or “I will
never get promoted”.
2.1.5 The Lose Tempered
People with lose temper exist everywhere in the society, but at workplace they
not only disturb the environment but also affect others’ life. They usually yell on
subordinates, co-workers, clients etc. This kind of conduct of such people adds
negativity to the organization and after crossing a limit it becomes toxic. This kind of
employee could scare the customers as well as best employees. Such kind of people
do not have control on their temper and cannot manage their behaviour according to
situation. This kind of employee can be identified directly from their behaviour.
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2.1.6 The Gossip – Chatter
Office gossip is a part of everyday office life, which can lead to a significant
decrease in a team’s productivity, if it is not healthy. Gossiping culprit can be spotted
everywhere in the office: they would probably be chatting at the lunch, in corridors, in
co-worker’s office, at the tea. They usually share office news in an unproductive,
rather demoralizing way. Also, they try to indulge in co-worker’s personal life. They
usually enter in colleagues’ office without knocking on the door, simply to ask about
their vacation plans, kids, everyday news, politics, religion etc. They are usually full
of gossip stories about everything. Besides, excessive gossip and ungrounded rumors
about office management and activities, they can turn the regular effective office
environment into office politics and create drama among the employees. These are
their usual tactics to waste precious office time. Their usual sentences are; “Did you
see the football match last night?”, “Did you hear about …….” or “Did you hear
about who’s getting a promotion?”
2.1.7 Untrustworthy and Dishonest
The person who cannot keep secrets of the business and share it with others
outside the office is also toxic. It is difficult to spot such employees but is very
important in certain circumstances, especially where trade secrets are very important
and signing of NDA (non-disclosure agreement) is essential. This kind of an
employee is also involved in financial corruption. He might be using office finances
for his personal items. This type of employee in not only directly damage the
organization but also attract the co-workers in doing the same.
2.1.8 The Narcissist
As it is mentioned earlier, the toxicity is not linked with the competence but is a
matter of commitment. A toxic employee can be an outperformer, but he does not
recognize the value of other team members who are the backbone of all his
achievements. He usually prefers to work alone and keep things to himself and
underestimates the strength of other team members. The kind of an employee can
never perform a work where cooperation is needed to perform group projects. These
kinds of people usually are self-centered and always found saying that: “I have no
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replacement!”, “I have established everything in this department”, “Nobody can do
what I do”, or “I know it all”.
2.1.9 Who Cannot Stick to a Decision
There are certain types of people who have very short-lived thinking process,
which changes with every passing moment. Also, there are people who forget their
previous decisions. Such employees are also harmful to the organizational
environment. They usually do not put effort in making critical decision and their
implication in the long run. Such employees seriously hamper the organizational
growth.
2.1.10 Help Wanting
This type of person is always looking for someone’s help to get his work done.
This way his is counter-productive and wastes lot of time of other colleagues. He also
has lame excuses for his sub-par execution of his job. In the organization, if everyone
else can complete their own work within stipulated time, such person can also do, but
he needs constant assistance unless in special circumstances. The main reason for this
behaviour is his lack of interest in the job. Such type of workers are sluggish or
sloppy and constantly need others to get their work done or help them doing their
work, they could be creating a toxic workplace and identified as toxins.
2.1.11 The Bully
These types of employees are exaggeratedly aggressive with their co-workers and
uses their position or intimidating personality to achieve desired results. Such
employees are usually at managerial level. These days, workplace bullying is on the
rise. Some 25-50 % of workers report being bullied by their managers at work at some
point in their careers. For this behaviour the consequences are severe, and people lose
their interest in their job, and start looking for a new place to work. This behaviour
results in lost productivity, brand and reputation damage, and even legal costs to the
organization sometimes.
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2.2 Separating and Identifying Toxins
It is important to find a difference in the difficult and a toxic employee. All
difficult people are not toxic, but all toxic people are undoubtedly difficult. So, this
makes it even more significant to segregating such people. Toxic employees are those
who cause harm to the organization but also spread their behaviour to others by de-
energizing and inculcating frustration in them. Whereas difficult employees have
certain traits in them, which are difficult to understand and deal with. For example, an
employee who is a salesman and have very good dealing with the customers, but he is
rude to his co-workers. Such person is a useful assert for the organization but at the
same time irritating for his co-workers. Therefore, it is vital to distinct the toxins with
difficult people in order to find appropriate remedy to deal with toxins. After this
exercise, it becomes easier to deal with toxins and find appropriate and specific
remedies to deal with them.
2.3 Remedies
Once toxic employees in an organization have been identified and separated, all
is needed is to deal with them in a professional manner. In the following section, few
remedies have been identified and proposed to tackle toxins in an organization.
Although these remedies are not implementable on all types of toxins, but they give
general guidelines to deal with trouble makers in an organization [7,8].
2.3.1 Delve Deeper by Productive Conversation
It is very important to understand the root cause of the problem the so called
“toxic employee” is facing which is resulting in his controversial conduct at job. This
requires taking a closer look at his behaviour and its source which is causing it. Either
the person is unhappy in his job? Or he is struggling in his personal life? Does he
have any misunderstanding with co-workers? [9]
In order to find the answers to these issues, you might have to meet with them
and ask how they are doing at work and at home. Once you identify the reason why
these employees are behaving like the way they are doing, you might be able to help
them in order to bring them back to where you want them to be. You might need to
consult him yourself or hire someone to help him through counselling.
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2.3.2 Give Them Constructive Feedback
In certain cases, toxic people are unaware of the effect they are leaving on others.
Such people are usually too focused on their own behaviours having no or little
understanding of the broader impact. Therefore, it is important to give direct and fair
feedback so that they are familiar to the problem and find a way to change
themselves. The feedback could be given in a routine conversation realizing them the
damage they are making and its effect on the organization. The issues could be
objectively explained to them about the behaviour and its effects, using specific
examples. Also try to discuss with them that what kind of behaviour and efforts they
would like to make and develop an improvement plan. By providing feedback, you
are giving them an opportunity to change themselves and to harmonize with the work
environment which is suitable to them as well as to the organization.
Once you have provided your feedback to toxins, it is important to review
performance against these guidelines on regular basis and provide follow up feedback
to further improve their performance, if they are responding positively.
2.3.3 Explain the Consequences
In some cases, it is advisable to realize the toxic employee the consequences of
their actions. This will provoke them to change by realizing to potential losses which
could happen because of their behaviour, and the gains. This could be loss of job with
serious consequences on them as well as to their families. If they are offenders of
serious level, they probably need to face courts etc. If the person is still hesitant to
improve, try to figure out what are they most concerned about, the privilege of
working from home, the choice to come late at work, their bonus, their independence,
their promotion, and put these things at stake. For most people, the possibility of
losing one of such things will be a strong motivator to behave in a more reasonable.
2.3.4 Make Record of Everything
If a person has made enough of damage and you have decided to fire him, you
need a concrete evidence to avoid any future consequences, a court case etc. In such
case you must first have document all his offences, his responses, offers made to him
to change his attitude. You need to build a strong case against him to make big step by
completely realizing the response. This would be done by establishing a pattern of
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behaviour, the steps you took to address, the warnings you gave, and the resources
you provided. You must also add the failures of the employee to revamp by including
supporting documentary evidence and his performance reports from his evaluators /
immediate bosses. Collecting all the documents will not only keep you safe as well as
the organization. Additional impact of the activity will be positive on other employees
of similar character. They will take a lesson and try to adjust themselves according to
the situation.
2.3.5 Separate the Toxins from Other Team Members
As it has previously been discussed that toxic people are harmful to other
employees as they may inculcate their thoughts in others. Therefore, it is of utmost
importance that first of all they should be separated from others. Even if you cannot
get rid of them you can at least isolate them from others to reduce the damage. It is
mostly likely that people in close proximity of toxins may become toxic themselves.
You may re-arrange the desks, change the assignments to avoid them becoming
closer, encourage work from home etc. Toxic people work like a disease which
spreads quickly through interactions, gossip, and sitting nearby. It is also advisable to
inform others about such people silently and advise them to keep the distance from
them.
2.3.6 Do Not Get Distracted
Your time and energy is precious and you do not want to waste it in managing a
toxic person who may not be useful for the organization anymore. Therefore, it is
more advisable not to spend so much time and energy on one individual at the cost of
your other professional priorities. The practice would be to counteract the negativity
and negative behaviour of one employee with the energy and motivation in other
employees. Surround yourself with positive and productive people. This will not only
add positivity in yourself as well as efficiency in your work. Live a happy life and
avoid the stress which he has caused you.
2.3.7 Comment on Behaviour, Not the Character
Generally, when you start a conversation by telling someone that they are being
condescending, you are not going to make progress. They are probably not going to
hear the next thing you say. On the other hand, if you could say, “Hey, when you said,
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‘Wow, I don’t really agree with that idea which you presented in the meeting’, you
were using a really negative tone, and that behaviour is not appropriate,” you might
get their attention.
The idea behind this discussion is that you want to focus on behaviour not the
character of a certain person who is behaving toxic in the workplace. You would like
to focus on the exact behaviour that you have observed and want them to change.
Therefore, try to comment only on the behaviour not the person’s overall character.
2.4 Summarizing the Remedies
In summary, following are the key strategical steps to follow to reduce the
damage to the organization due to such people:
1) Identify them at the time of interview and do not hire them.
2) Identify the already inducted toxic employees in the organization.
3) Categorize toxic employees based on their behaviour.
4) Place such employees in different departments and reduce their mingling.
5) Reduce the interaction of such people with rest of the employees.
6) Communicate with them individually to identify the cause of their
behaviour.
7) Try to address their issues which could be addressed.
8) Give them feedback and follow up their response.
9) Talk to them and explain them the consequences of their toxic behaviour
for them.
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3 Results and Discussions
The main aim of all the above discussions is to move all types of employees,
especially toxic employees to quadrant IV (figure 1.1) to make the organization more
efficient. This chapter deals with few case studies on toxic people, to show how to
deal with them to get desired response. Their general behaviour at work place is
described and corresponding remedies have been proposed to obtain desired results.
3.1 Case Study #1
Mr. Imtiaz was the head of an experimental facility in a governmental research
organization. He was assigned to lead the department to improve the performance of
the facility, which is delimited by few employees. Mr. Junaid, who was an officer in
the same department and had been a trouble maker for the department. He was
promoting bad habits within the co-workers.
Mr. Junaid was always latecomer, and he always had unacceptable reasons for
this habit. This behaviour of his’ was being promoted among other colleagues, which
had become to an alarming situation. He was also a narcissist, and always claimed
that he is the best person in the organization and the organization is nothing without
him. Another habit of him was that he used to do little things and showed it as huge
task. To prove this, he always seemed busy in doing something. In addition to that he
was always angry about office policies. He used to talk about his personal issues and
shouted that nothing is perfect in his life.
3.1.1 Remedy
Mr. Imtiaz decided to change the behaviour of Junaid and took few steps in order
to bring a positive change in him as well as in the overall office environment. For this
he took few radical steps. He arranged a meeting with him to discuss his personal and
office related issues. He found few things which could be rectified. He arranged a
training for Junaid, due to which he was always annoyed at. He gave feedback to his
assignments and help him to lead to a logical end. This not only improved the quality
of his own work but also increased the outcome of the department. Mr. Imtiaz later
followed the response of his feedback and continued doing this time to time. He was
also assigned few additional tasks with time limitations in order to measure his
14
performance and at later stage so that his performance can be compared with other
employees to make him realize his shortcomings.
Regarding Junaid’s irregularities and unpunctual attitude, he was given strict
warnings and it was realized to him that the department can be run without his
presence or involvement. Therefore, he should follow the rules as others do and stop
spreading negative attitudes within the work environment.
Mr. Imtiaz documented all the feedbacks, warnings, assignments etc. given to
Junaid for any future use in case he does not respond and keeps his habits. This would
be used to stop his career by stopping his promotion and punish him in future, if
needed.
The result of such actions by Mr. Imtiaz brought back Junaid to play a positive
role in office and the documents were never used against him.
3.2 Case Study # 2
In another governmental organization where Mr. Asad was the director of a
department, an employee named Mr. Salman was posing a threat to the work
environment with his ill attitude and wrong doings. No doubt, he was an intelligent
and competent person and contributed to the success of the department, but his
attitude had become miserable to fellow colleagues as well as for his bosses. Mr. Asad
decided to reduce his impact on the office environment without realizing him that he
is being manipulated.
He was always latecomer and had always freshly crafted reasons. He did not even
realize that this is important to be at work in time. He used to feel himself only
intelligent person in the department, who knows the best of everything. He was
always in search of opportunities and activities outside office in order to keep himself
updated with the outside environment and keeping his options open to leave the job as
soon as he gets an opportunity. Due to this, he was usually not available in his office.
Even he was in the premises, one could find him in the tea room gossiping with
someone about bad policies and practices of the department, government etc.
Claiming for big rewards for his little contribution was his habit as well. This was
because, he was proud of what he did in his study time and feels that as “he got
degree from world renowned institute”, he should be given a red-carpet protocol.
15
3.2.1 Remedy
Mr. Asad took few actions to rectify the threats which Salman was posing for the
department. He arranged a meeting to identify the real cause of unwanted behaviour
of Salman. He realized that Salman is very proud in himself for being a graduate of a
highly reputed institute. Due to this, even being a junior employee, he wants himself
to be at a managerial position, which was not possible. He also realized that he is
looking for other positions outside the department but do not want to leave current
position until he gets a better offer.
Mr. Asad warned him to change his attitude and stop playing negative.
Additionally, he issued him serious warning to make himself punctual and abide by
the rules. He also assigned him with various time bound tasks in order to keep him
busy. Mr. Asad realized him that what ever he has done in his educational career is
appreciable, but it will not lead him to a successful professional. He needs to be a
professional and follow the rules. Mr. Asad also started to document everything which
he said to Salman for future use.
These few steps worked well, and Salman changed his behavior though not
completely but to an acceptable level. As a result, he not only improved himself but
started helping other colleagues in their tasks.
In addition to the above case studies, following two case studies have been
discussed by Amy Gallo [10]. The case studies are being added as additional
examples.
3.3 Case Study # 3
Christina Del Villar, the director of marketing at the e-commerce operations
software firm Webgility, managed a small team at a start-up earlier in her career. One
employee, Ms. Sharon (not her real name), who was a senior marketing manager, was
making the rest of the group miserable. Her general attributes were:
“She was an alcoholic, abused drugs, and had a medical condition,” Christina
recalls, Her work was “full of mistakes,” her work ethic was poor ”she was often
out of the office, at least one day a week, if not more” and she frequently took
credit for others’ efforts.
16
3.3.1 Remedy
Christina made sure to document the behaviour but says she couldn’t fire Sharon
because the woman “had threatened to sue for a variety of reasons, including her
medical condition” should she be let go. Instead, she worked to prevent “the
negativity from seeping into everything” by routinely giving Sharon feedback and
direction. “Sometimes people don’t realize the impact they’re having so I like to have
a blunt conversation with them about their behaviour, what they can do to change it,
and how they can work better with the team.” Her approach was “delicate” because,
with Sharon “you never really knew who you were going to get on any given day.”
But she learned to read her employee’s “state of mind” and “pick days where she
would be more accepting of this kind of conversation.”
Christina also supported the rest of the team. “Sometimes it was as easy as saying
they were doing a great job or thanking them for stepping up to “fill the void” left by
Sharon, she explains. She also encouraged them to focus on themselves and their
work, “not on what someone else was or was not be doing.” When they complained
about Sharon, she offered advice “while still respecting everyone’s privacy and
staying within the law.”
While Christina’s efforts reduced the negative impact Sharon was having, the
problem was ultimately solved by circumstance. When their business was acquired by
a larger organization, Sharon moved to a different department.
3.4 Case Study # 4
Daniel Hanson (not his real name) once managed an IT team at a large
multinational that suffered every time it had to interact with Bob (also not his real
name), a senior internal consultant. “He had a habit of talking down to people and
being dismissive and was blissfully unaware that his behaviours irritated people,”
Daniel recalls.
With a little probing, Daniel discovered some of the reasons for Bob’s negativity.
“His personal life was a mess between bad relationships and estranged children. Plus
he’d realized that he had reached a certain age and hadnt achieved the professional
satisfaction that he wanted and he thought he deserved.”.
17
3.4.1 Remedy
Still, Daniel made clear to Bob that his behaviour needed to change. He
recommended a counselor provided by the organization and offered up his own time
and advice in weekly meetings. “I told him this was his last chance and that the next
step was a formal performance management plan and almost inevitably exit from the
business,” he says.
Although many managers “hated Bob with a passion,” Daniel encouraged them to
stop talking about him behind his back, “to see that he was trying to change and to
include him in more senior projects under close observation.” He spoke to people
individually and “pointed out that his contribution on numerous projects had been
immense.”
“Gradually, as Bob’s behaviour changed, their attitudes toward him changed as
well,” Daniel says. He’s proud that, when Bob did eventually transfer to another team,
it was because he’d wanted to go, not because he’d been forced out.
18
4 Summary and Conclusions
Toxicity in organization exists at various levels but the major source of toxicity is
the toxic employees who have negative behaviour and careless attitude towards their
job. Toxicity in people is their psychological response to certain situations due to
environmental and personal issues. The toxic people who are to a certain extent
psychologically affected cause serious harm to the efficiency of the organizations and
as a result seriously affect the success. They not only affect the organization but also
affect the co-workers. It is, therefore, of vital importance to identify the toxins within
the organization, isolate them and remedy them. In order to identify them, their usual
behaviour, way of talking and attitude towards the job is observed, which gives
indication towards their toxic behaviour. There are several types of toxic people with
variants but most common are, the excuse-makers who find a way out to avoid the
assignments. There are certain people who have other commitments than the job and
they leave the office as soon as they know that their boss has left. Sometimes, there
are people who are not liked by others due to their personal character and people try
to avoid them. Such people are also harmful because they cannot perform in a team.
Some people in an organization are unhappy about many things such as their personal
issues, their job assignment, their life etc., they are also toxic. People with lose temper
are never liked anywhere and same is the case at workplace. Such people push other
co-workers away and create a negative environment. People gossiping all the time
usually waste a lot of time of themselves as well as co-workers. Untrustworthy and
dishonest people in an organization are a big threat too. People with narcissist attitude
are also not useful for an organization, who think themselves the best among others
and cannot accept the contribution of other co-workers. Some people who cannot
stick to one thing they say and wobble around their decisions are also unhealthy for
the organization. The employees who are always in search of help in performing their
duties are inefficient in themselves are classified as toxic to the organization. People
bullying all the time are toxic as well.
First step to manage toxic employees in an organization is to identify and
segregate them form others. Later, the manager should dig deeper in the underlying
cause of their ill behaviour, which could only be revealed through one to one meeting.
19
This will result in finding the proper remedy to deal with such people. Generally, the
toxic people can be improved by giving them feedback, resolving their issues,
explaining them the consequences of such behaviour, separating them from other
employees. It is also important for the manager to document everything and tell the
toxins about it, so that they are aware of the situation and get ready for the worst if it
happens due their toxic behaviour at the workplace.
Above mentioned actions are mostly useful and result in positive change in the
behaviour of toxic employees but in case their response is not positive, the authorities
must take an action to get rid of such employees, being a black apple in healthy ones.
20
5 References
[1] M. Stark, “Time to Treat Toxic Emotions at Work, Working Knowledge for
Business Leaders” Archive, Harvard Business School, Boston, MA, March 10,
2003
[2] S. H. Appelbaum, D. Roy-Girard, “Toxins in the workplace: Affect on
organizations and employees”, Corporate Governance International Journal of
Business in Society vol. 7 no. 1, pp. 17-28, 2007
[3] M. Housman, T. Minor, “Toxic Workers”, Harvard Business School, Working
Paper 16-057, 2015
[4] C. Pavlou, “How to identify and address ‘toxic employees’”, Workable tutorials,
Workable online resources, 2018 https://resources.workable.com/tutorial/toxic-
employees
[5] M. Levin, “Harvard Research Proves Toxic Employees Destroy Your Culture and
Your Bottom Line”, Inc online articles, August 27, 2018
https://www.inc.com/marissa-levin/harvard-research-proves-toxic-employees-
destroy-your-culture-your-bottom-line.html
[6] R. Brown, “How to identify and manage toxic employees”, HRM online, The
Australian HR Institute, Australia, March 10, 2017
http://www.hrmonline.com.au/section/featured/identify-manage-toxic-employees/
[7] Cornerstone On Demand, Inc., “Toxic Employees in the Workplace, Hidden Costs
and How to Spot Them”, csod-wp-toxic-employees-3-2015, 2015
https://www.cornerstoneondemand.com/sites/default/files/thank-you/file-to-
download/csod-wp-toxic-employees-032015_0.pdf
[8] K. Ashford, “How to manage a toxic Employee” Monster contributing articles,
2018 https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/manage-a-toxic-employee
[9] A. Gallo, “HBR Guide to dealing with Conflicts”, Series: Harvard Business
Review guides , Harvard Business Review press, 2017
[10] A. Gallo, “How to Manage a Toxic Employee”, online article, Harvard Business
Reviews, October 03, 2016
https://hbr.org/2016/10/how-to-manage-a-toxic-employee
21
Vitae
Muhammad Usman has PhD in Microelectronics and Applied
Physics from KTH Royal Institute of Technology, Sweden. He
completed his PhD in 2012 and since then he is working in
National Centre for Physics (NCP), Islamabad. He is working as
Head of Ion Beam Application Division in the Experimental Physics
Department of NCP. His main fields of interest are Semiconductor
Physics, Materials Sciences, and Ion beam applications.
ResearchGate has not been able to resolve any citations for this publication.
Article
Full-text available
Purpose – The purpose of this article is to define toxins such as toxic leader, toxic manager, toxic culture, and toxic organization and explore how they affect the organization's performance and its employees. Design/methodology/approach – This article is basically twofold. It is a literature review utilizing a selective bibliography providing advice on information sources and it is comprehensive in that the objective is to cover the mainstream and unique contributors of toxicity. It is also a general review providing an overview of this contemporary issue facing organizations with descriptions of what the problem is and how to address it. Findings – Organizations as well as their employees suffer from the affects of toxins that are present within the organization. They also suffer from psychological effects, such as; impaired judgment, irritability, anxiety, anger, an inability to concentrate and memory loss. On the other hand, it has also been found that companies in North America alone lose an excess of $200 billion each year due to employee deviance. Employee deviance has also been found to be the cause of approximately 30 percent of all business failures. Practical implications – There are possible solutions to reduce, and sometimes even eliminate, toxicity in an organization. Possible solutions, such as recognition, and the use of toxin handlers to eliminate, reduce, or avoid the infiltration and spreading of these toxins is very important to organizations that suffer from or would like to prevent toxicity in the workplace. Originality/value – The article is unique and highly practical for all individuals who are in management and for those who are called on to assume leadership roles mandated to deal with deviance, organizational citizen behavior and toxicity in the organization.
Article
While there has been much work on finding and developing top performers in the workplace, less attention has been focused on how to manage those workers who are harmful to organizational performance. In the most dramatic form, such workers can generate enormous regulatory and legal liabilities for the firm, harm its reputation, and invalidate its corporate social responsibility program. We explore a large dataset of over 50,000 workers across 11 different firms to document a variety of aspects of workers characteristics and circumstances that lead them to engage in actual toxic behavior. We also find that removing a toxic worker or converting him into an average worker enhances organizational performance to a much greater extent than replacing an average worker with a superstar worker.
Time to Treat Toxic Emotions at Work, Working Knowledge for Business Leaders" Archive
  • M Stark
M. Stark, "Time to Treat Toxic Emotions at Work, Working Knowledge for Business Leaders" Archive, Harvard Business School, Boston, MA, March 10, 2003
How to identify and address 'toxic employees
  • C Pavlou
C. Pavlou, "How to identify and address 'toxic employees'", Workable tutorials, Workable online resources, 2018 https://resources.workable.com/tutorial/toxicemployees
Harvard Research Proves Toxic Employees Destroy Your Culture and Your Bottom Line
  • M Levin
M. Levin, "Harvard Research Proves Toxic Employees Destroy Your Culture and Your Bottom Line", Inc online articles, August 27, 2018
How to identify and manage toxic employees
  • R Brown
R. Brown, "How to identify and manage toxic employees", HRM online, The Australian HR Institute, Australia, March 10, 2017
Toxic Employees in the Workplace, Hidden Costs and How to Spot Them
  • Cornerstone On Demand
  • Inc
Cornerstone On Demand, Inc., "Toxic Employees in the Workplace, Hidden Costs and How to Spot Them", csod-wp-toxic-employees-3-2015, 2015
How to Manage a Toxic Employee
  • A Gallo
A. Gallo, "How to Manage a Toxic Employee", online article, Harvard Business Reviews, October 03, 2016
HBR Guide to dealing with Conflicts
  • A Gallo
A. Gallo, "HBR Guide to dealing with Conflicts", Series: Harvard Business Review guides, Harvard Business Review press, 2017