Friday, January 22, 2016

I Quit . . . It Began With a Toxic Employee

This is my personal example of how toxic employees hurt organizations.

Many years ago I worked for a new company that was growing fast! It had amazing potential and was just beginning to develop its own unique culture that was different from similar companies within the same industry. My stock in the company was rising quickly. Within six months of being hired, I was being considered for promotion. I loved my job and the people I worked with!

One of my co-workers was rewarded with the promotion that I was seeking. This only helped me work harder and really focused me on being even more productive at my job. My co-worker who was promoted became my supervisor, but we were still close friends. One day, my supervisor came to me and told me that one of my other co-workers came to him and told him various things about me that he knew were not true. He could not figure out why one of my co-workers would try to discredit me so badly.

It was a couple of weeks later that things became more clear. My supervisor came to me and told me that the came co-worker who attempted to discredit me, had just done the same thing to another of his co-workers. It had become obvious that this co-worker was a toxic employee. He was upset that he was not considered for the promotion, so his goal was to discredit all of the co-workers he viewed as competition.

All of the signs of a toxic employee were there:

  • He spread gossip about other co-workers
  • Did not care about his co-workers
  • Only worked hard when somebody was looking
  • He was over-confident
  • Said, "that's their problem", "this is stupid", and "that's not my job"
  • Pushed his work on other co-workers
  • He bullied other co-workers
How companies deal with toxic employees says a lot about the company itself, but it also has a huge effect on its culture. After many complaints about this toxic employee, the company finally responded . . . they promoted him. This toxic employee was promoted into a newly created position and given the chance to work from home 50% of the time.

It turned out that this type of decision making was taking place throughout the company. Toxic employee were being rewarded for their "efforts" in multiple departments. Promoting and rewarding this type of behavior had a ripple effect throughout the company. It was the change to the culture of the company that was most noticeable. Rather than being unique, in a positive way, within their industry, the company earned the reputation as being one of the worst organizations to work for.

If the company would have tried to correct the behavior of these toxic employees or simply terminated their employment with the organization, things might have turned out different. However, as the situation was, during the next few months, many of the effective and productive employees found new places for employment, including myself.

Good and productive employees don't want to work with toxic employees who suck the life out of a company. If there are toxic employees within your company, it is vital that you act quickly to correct the situation. Otherwise, they will have a negative effect on the culture of your company and your best employees will leave.

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