BEWARE: Toxic employees are "highly contagious"

Companies must uncover the root cause of ‘toxic employee’ behaviour before it impacts the finance and culture of the business.

That’s according to Colette Wade, Regional Vice President Marketing & Business Development, EMEA, Cornerstone OnDemand.

A recent Cornerstone study found that good employees are 54% more likely to quit when they work with a toxic employee, if the proportion of toxic employees on their team grows by as little as a 1:20 ratio.

Wade said that while it is important to avoid hiring these employees in the first place some may be harder to spot.

Speaking exclusively to HR Grapevine she said: “Some may develop toxic behaviour whilst with the company, in which case it needs to be addressed fast and efficiently, given what we know from our research regarding the impact it has on colleagues. Opening the lines of communication and looking to uncover the root of the negative behaviour is the first action.

“Then, the conversation has to be on clarifying and emphasising expectations on both sides. If these conversations don’t prompt a change in behaviour, the only thing left to do is to let the employee go before any more damage is done. Be sure to document the ongoing discussions to ensure a somewhat smooth process.”

But Wade explains there are some tell-tale signs that can highlight problem staff.

“There are a few indicators that can predict whether someone is a toxic employee. In terms of hiring, those who seem over-confident about their technical proficiencies and those who claim to be rule followers are actually more likely to engage in toxic behaviour and break the rules.

“In the workplace, unwillingness to help others and unreliability are good predictors of toxic employees, and the traits are typically more prevalent in larger teams. A key downside of this latter fact is that toxic behaviour can be highly contagious – something that can have huge ramifications for talent management and costs to the business.”

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