Count yourself lucky if you’ve never worked with a toxic co-worker before because working with a toxic employee on a regular basis can be more stressful than work itself. Their annoying and disruptive behavior can even affect the morale and the productivity of the whole team. Worse, they may even cause your team’s downfall.
How do you deal with a toxic co-worker? How can you respond to a workmate’s difficult behavior?
Toxic employees are generally more harmful than just difficult employees as they can affect the team as a whole. You can swear that it’s their life goal to make everyone’s office life as miserable as can be. They may even spread their behavior until other people start to think and act like them as well. And since you really can’t fire them unless they break company protocol, you’re going to have to deal with them like the professional that you are. Here’s how.
As a manager, you can try to delve deeper and find out what causes the toxic behavior. With an open mind, sit them down and ask how they’re doing inside and outside of work. Some toxic employees may just be undergoing some stress at home. Most of them don’t wake up in the morning and think of all the ways they can be difficult at work.
If they’re struggling with some mental health problems or marriage problems, you can refer them to a counselor or an assistance program offered by your company. Try to understand their intentions instead of assuming that they’re toxic just because. IT workers especially, and even those working on medical software development aren’t immune to physical and mental stress and health problems.
A simply toxic coworker loves getting attention, especially when they’re sure it stirs up negative emotions. Try to remain calm and refuse to give them the satisfaction of knowing that they’ve affected you. Staying calm despite their behavior will put give you more control over the situation. They may even begin wondering why they don’t affect you as easily as they can affect others. And if you’re lucky, you might even earn their respect.
If an employee has been way too difficult for some time now, it isn’t hard to imagine that things can get personal. However, as a manager, you’re going to want to keep things professional at all times. If a subordinate is being difficult, talk to them without getting personal by attaching business consequences to their difficult actions.
Let them know how their behavior is affecting the team and the business. If it isn’t enough, let them know how continuing the behavior can negatively impact their career. Promotions, bonuses, raises, professional relationships, and career opportunities may be lost if other people start to take notice. This ought to knock some sense into them.
Cultural differences can lead to meaningful exchanges, but they can sometimes lead to difficulties in the workplace too. While you may share the same standards with a lot of other people in the company, you need to be sensitive about other people’s cultural standards as well. You may think that someone is being intentionally difficult while it could just be your cultural baggage. Make sure you’re on the same page by communicating efficiently with the other person.
Get others’ perspective
If you’re seeing the negative, toxic behavior, chances are that others are seeing them too. If you’re that person’s manager, ask a trusted co-worker about what they think. If you’re that person’s colleague, ask another colleague for some unbiased opinion.
They may be seeing things from a different angle and another person’s perspective may not exactly line up with yours. Maybe you’re just misunderstanding the person and their actions. On the other hand, if you’re all experiencing the same negative and toxic vibes from that person, then you may be able to do something about it.
As a colleague, you can either just choose to ignore the person and their toxic behavior, or you can try to go to your boss and ask for advice. As a manager, you’re going to have to hold the difficult discussion by yourself first, and then with an HR representative if things are quickly going out of hand.