Toxic Employees: How One Bad Apple Ruins the Bunch

Toxic Employee Blog

We’ve all heard the idiom, “One rotten apple spoils the whole barrel.” But what about one rotten, or toxic, employee? Can their influence on their coworkers create a domino effect and ruin your company culture?

Relationships among coworkers are important, and the way they interact with each other defines your company culture. So, what happens when you have a toxic employee? Unfortunately, their negativity impacts everyone they come into contact with, including colleagues, customers, and managers. In fact, they just might drive your top performing employee to quit. So, what do you do? 

The sooner you identify the rotten apple and understand how to manage them, the better chance you’ll have to save your company culture. And if you have a small business, where there are more interactions among each member of your team, you’ll want to respond even more quickly to the employee in question.

Immediate Action: If you haven't clearly defined your culture and workplace expectations in your employee handbook, contact your dedicated HR professional for guidance.

Is your business at risk without an employee handbook 

Identifying Toxic Employees

The Gossiper. The Victim. The Self-Absorbed. They come in all forms and the resulting damage from having them on your team can leave even your superstar employee feeling debilitated. Employee performance, morale, and productivity will often go down in offices with a toxic employee due to the distracting and destructive nature of these individuals. According to Inc, there are 10 types of toxic employees you should be on the lookout for at your business.

1.   The Gossip: Often in the disguise of the office social butterfly, The Gossip takes pleasure in spreading news of other team members’ misfortunes. For this toxic employee, the entire workday is their social hour. They are loud, annoying, distracting and the root for spreading drama in the office. When The Gossip is part of your team, you can expect productivity to go down.

2.   The Temperamental: Experts agree a key characteristic of top performers is their ability to maintain control over their emotions. The Temperamental, on the other hand, has no control over their emotions. They spew their feelings all over the place distracting your team, whether they are crying or intentionally knocking things off their desk in a tantrum. Witnessing their extreme emotions can even make managers feel sorry for them, making them even more difficult to remove from your team.  

3.   The Victim: The Victim makes mountains out of molehills. They overreact to even the smallest of problems. Nothing is ever an opportunity for growth with The Victim. Instead, it is the end of the world. Not only does The Victim expend unnecessary amounts of their own energy during their times of need, but you’ll soon realize The Victim always has a time of need, which will start to suck up all your time and energy, too.

4.   The Self-Absorbed: When other employees must work with The Self-Absorbed, it can make them feel very much alone. The Self-Absorbed has no desire to have close relationships with their coworkers, prefers to work alone and does not value teamwork. They often underestimate the abilities of their coworkers and solely use them to boost their own self-esteem.

5.   The Envious: These are the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence employees, and they are everywhere. The Envious never gets satisfaction from their accomplishments because they are always measuring their success against the rest of the world. And when your employees work with The Envious long enough, they will learn from this toxic employee to minimize their own accomplishments. Eventually, you will have a team of employees with diminished morale, who no longer feel satisfaction with their work.  

6.   The Manipulator: With The Manipulator, the relationship is one-sided and never what it seems. The Manipulator identifies vulnerabilities in other employees and uses tactics to gain control over them. As such, The Manipulator can often get away with things in your workplace other employees wouldn’t, as they are masters of shifting responsibilities to others, taking credit for others accomplishments and avoiding punishments.

7.   The Dementor: Nothing is darker than having The Dementor onboard. Harry Potter fans all over the world can easily recognize this type of toxic employee. They are highly-negative, soul-sucking individuals who project pessimism and fear. For The Dementor, the glass is always half empty. The effect The Dementor has on people is well-documented. A Notre Dame University study found students who were assigned roommates with a negatively attitude and thoughts were far more likely to develop negative thinking and even depression themselves. Being around The Dementor 40 hours every week can become downright depressing.  

8.   The Twisted: The only thing positive about The Twisted is they are often easy to spot early on. The Twisted is, well, just as it sounds … twisted. They have bad intentions and get a deep satisfaction out of others’ pain and misery. The Twisted is highly toxic. Enough said.

9.   The Judgmental: Just when you thought judgmental cliques only existed in high school, you realize you’ve mistakenly hired The Judgmental. Before you realize it, everything is either cool or uncool. And to be even more clear - anything and everything different from The Judgmental is definitely not cool. If you want a company culture where individuals feel they are free to be themselves, openly contributing ideas and expressing creativity, The Judgmental will stomp on it.

10.  The Arrogant: Not to be confused with a confident employee who considers themselves talented, helps others and admits to their mistakes, The Arrogant masks their insecurities with false confidence. They consider themselves to be superior, are argumentative when bringing shortfalls to their attention and tear others down in an attempt to lift themselves up.  

What to Do About Toxic Employees

The ideal situation would be to never hire a toxic employee. These 16 tips for the interviewer can help you or your hiring manager to avoid a bad hire. Unfortunately, most offices have at least one bad apple. So, what do you do once they are already on-board? Don’t miss our upcoming blogs where our experts will discuss how to manage toxic employees and steps for effective discipline.

Toxic Employees: You've Identified One at Your Business, Now What

Related Reading 

6 Keys to Effective Employee Discipline 

Ghosting: Issuing Final Paychecks When an Employee Disappears

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Cori McClish

Written by Cori McClish