5 Types of Toxic Employees …and How to Deal with Them

Do you find yourself spending more time on the tools than necessary, redoing work that was to be completed by your team players? Are you dealing with absences or late starters more than usual? Are you noticing unplanned man hours or overtime? Well, it’s a new year and that means it’s time to clean the junk out of your work place, so if you answered yes to any of these questions then you may have a toxic employee in your team. It’s time to deal with it now before everyone gets infected!

Having a healthy and productive work environment is essential to the growth and sustainability of your trade business. Engaged and productive employees mean better results for clients and obviously, for your business. But if you have a toxic team player in your midst, even if it is just one, your workplace can crumble almost instantly. You run the risk of losing great quality employees. Research shows that 54 per cent of great employees are more likely to quit a fulfilling job than stay and work with a toxic (cancerous) employee.

Interviews and references at the point of hire can only do so much and can’t always detect a toxic personality during the process. You will have to take extra measures to detect it for yourself. So, here are 5 types of people you should be in the lookout for:


The Bully
Harasses and bullies co-workers; can be aggressive or makes offensive joke, short-tempered (even with clients or customers), no regard for authority, breaks or bends rules to their favour.

 What you can do:

  • Deal and document negative behaviours as soon as possible and don’t tolerate it further
  • Review company policies for workplace harassment, client interaction and misconduct, and the necessary corrective actions
  • Discuss and strictly enforce these policies within your company
  • Keep the big picture in mind to create a safe, supportive and engaging work environment.


The Procrastinator
Always late or often absent, misses deadlines, no sense of time, often distracted on non-essential work, low motivation, uses company time poorly

What you can do:

  • Provide clear work expectations and hold them accountable
  • Do unscheduled visits and reviews
  • Don’t tolerate this behaviour and ‘nip it in the bud’ as soon as possible


The Drama King/Queen
Craves attention, fun and entertaining but can be loud and distracting. Thrives on gossip and incites drama, fusses over everything, socialises more than works, no focus and disorganised.

What you can do:

  • Create a work environment that only uses POFL (Positive Outcome Focused Language)
  • Clearly define social times and work hours
  • Set up a meeting structure to discuss challenges off site or before work


The Helpless
Always asking questions, always seeking approval, lacks confidence, disorganised, learned helplessness, unreliable.

What you can do:

  • Make them aware of their constant checking in and over-reliance
  • Provide support by offering extra training
  • Create with them an improvement plan and monitor progress
  • Praise the process vs. the outcome


The Martyr
First to come in, last to leave, prefers to work alone, undermines co-worker’s performance, prone to perfectionism, often frustrated, regularly using over time.

What you can do:

  • Lessen workload by enforcing/give training to delegate
  • Enforce strict job or work hours
  • Foster collaborative efforts
  • Reward team effort more than individual performance


Like with any illness as they say, “an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of cure”. During the initial interview process, communicate to the potential new hire the core values and behaviours required to become a successful team player and that these will be regularly reviewed during their tenure with the company.

While it can’t be helped that a toxic employee may still slip through this process, make sure that you follow-through with early education and performance review.

Educate employees of the consequences for behaviour that is not aligned with the values of your company and discuss what makes a great working environment and the pitfalls of displaying toxic behaviour. Do a first week/first month performance review that involves a 360 feedback process (feedback from multiple sources co-workers, suppliers, clients, supervisors, managers), a verbal and documented coaching and improvement plan.

Again, think about the type of company you are wishing to create. Removing one person for the sake of the health of the company may be the best action you take.

Remember – what you tolerate, you endorse!


Jon Mailer




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