Most people enjoy their work, and most importantly, their co-workers.
Given the amount of time we all spend at work, enjoying the people we work with is important.
Sometimes, though, co-workers are suffering from being in a toxic workplace. Typically, one or a couple of co-workers are the main cause of the disruption.
Management needs to recognize, and address, toxic people in the workplace. There are common signs of a toxic co-worker, and these include:
• Gossip and lies: Toxic people gossip and lie about each other, the organization, management and pretty much everything.
They will spread rumors, telling people, for example, that the company is laying off people, or that Sally is about to get fired, or that Fred is an alcoholic.
They see themselves as the instant messengers of insider information, at least that’s what they want others to believe.
• Never ending drama: Toxic people thrive and survive on drama. There has to be an emergency going on all the time.
Drama is frequently self-inflicted. For example, a toxic employee will turn a simple workplace change like an announcement of office moves into an all-out conspiracy.
• Too much information shared. On the lines of drama, there is little about the personal lives of these people that everyone doesn’t know about.
They seemingly have never-ending medical appointments, issues and medications that they want to tell others about.
They might even bring their big zip lock bag of pills into a meeting and pop them on the regular at seemingly odd and inappropriate times. Their children are in trouble at school, the husband lost his job, the roof is leaking, the car is broken down and they’re in debt.
Their lives are pure dysfunction and co-workers are the recipients of knowing every single problem in the toxic coworker’s home life.
• Hater: Toxic people generally hate everything and everyone.
They hate management, their workspace, their company, their parking space, the bathroom stall handles, the location of the printer, their work chair, the air conditioning – literally – everything. They are just unhappy and miserable.
• Excuses: Toxic people take no accountability for any of their problems or issues because it is never their fault.
Identifying toxic people is not difficult, but organizations generally avoid addressing their behaviors because the individuals are so difficult, and in general, toxic people surprisingly take their work seriously and do a good job in their actual work.
Management will frequently remark that if the person would just focus on the job, the person could be a highly successful worker.
Even though the employee is performing, organizations need to address toxic employees because it is impacting other workers, the work environment and morale. In order to maintain a healthy workplace, management should address the toxic worker, and provide warning and guidance about appropriate conversations and behaviors.
Toxic workers can change their behaviors with some guidance and accountability. If they do not improve, toxic workers need to be removed from the work environment.