No One Likes a Debbie Downer
Debbie Downer. Eeyore. What comes to mind when you hear these two character names? Woe is me… negativity…pessimism…self-doubt. Ugh! I’m getting depressed just reading this! The sad thing is, many of us have in the past – currently do – and will in the future – work with someone who fits this description. To take it a step further, these types of individuals always seem to have an endless catalog of excuses as to why work can’t get done and generally a poor disposition. Everything that happens to them seems to be “out of their control”, “not their fault”, “someone else’s fault”…etc.
This, my friends, is a toxic employee. They seem to suck the very life out of any team and organization they’re a part of.
But as a manager, executive or leader of a company, how does one deal with a toxic employee? Not only do you have to worry about the output and productivity of this individual, but you have to be aware of how this negative person impacts those around him or her (other employees, clients, vendors, etc…). Managers also need to be keenly aware that their own credibility is at stake if they avoid the issue and do nothing to “clear the toxicity”. Below are some steps to help you do just that:
- Address head on. First things first, you must address the root cause of their behavior immediately. Set up a 1:1 meeting to uncover the root cause of the employee’s negativity. Is it external? Are they being bullied in the workplace? Do they simply not like their current position (or you!)? Get to the bottom of why.
- Reality check. Discuss how their behavior impacts those around them: their peers, superiors and subordinates. Often times they simply don’t realize their negative behavior may make those around them feel as though they can’t approach them, are intimidated by them and really don’t want to be around the negativity. This will compound the feeling of isolation the toxic employee may feel.
- Rehab plan. Once the cause is determined, mutually agreed upon clear action items need to be in place to remedy their behavior and attitude. Be ready to offer guidance, direction and time for them to change their behavior. This step is critical. This process will fail if the employee isn’t committed to change.
- Monitor. Check in with the employee regularly to determine if an improvement in attitude has taken place and most importantly, has their behavior mirrored that change. If not, be prepared to ask them one simple question: “if things are that bad at the office – why are you still here?” and amicably show them the door.
As leaders, we must be aware of the workplace environment. Toxic employees can impact productivity and lead to potential workplace violence and/or claims. If you identify a toxic employee, don’t let them fester and contaminate your workplace. Do something about it!
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