Employee retention is one of the most important factors of successful businesses. During the hiring process, managers look for attitude – Can this person represent my company at the highest level? Over time, attitudes and behaviors can change. Sometimes these changes can be caused by stress, lack of passion, or, in the worst scenario – an employee’s true colors begin to show. When the toxicity becomes too much to bear, how should we best approach the situation?
Assess the mission of your organization. the actions of the employee that you have taken note of and how it is affecting the reputation of the organization, the potential to suffer further from toxic behavior, and how these behaviors are lowering the organization’s Brand.
Industries such as sales, politics, and the military often foster a “win at all costs” mindset, which can lead to competition between teams. However, employees in any industry should exercise self-control to prevent toxic behaviors from harming the team as a whole.
If your organization promotes an altruistic mission, this mentality is more likely to cause a well of tension over time. This is especially true if you claim to represent a group of people, yet you become/are made aware that some employees are ostracizing target audience members who don’t fit their idea of what that group should be – who don’t “fit the bill”. For example, if your organization supports a minority group, but an employee views someone as a “black sheep” of that group, they may make that person feel unwanted.
Some common toxic behaviors in a workplace to watch for include:
- Lack of trust.
- Lack of collaboration.
- Emotional manipulation.
- Lack of support/growth opportunities.
- Taking credit for others’ work/ideas.
- Lack of healthy boundaries.
- Slandering Teammates/Potential New Hires.
If you notice any of these behaviors, start by speaking with the employee(s) who is being targeted. Be clear with them about what you have heard and/or observed and get a clearer understanding of how it is affecting them. Then, speak with the other team members individually. This will prevent the perpetrating parties from bonding together to manipulate the narrative further. Follow up consistently to ensure that these harmful actions are not continuing.
Try to avoid only speaking with the perpetrating parties and bystanders, as this can open the door for the continuation of these behaviors. Which can potentially even open the door to more severe consequences, such as legal action.
The commercialization of Deep Technologies has opened the door lesser considered toxic behaviors:
- Account hacking.
- Creating fake profiles to stalk perceived competition.
- Cyber threats to harm employees/target audience who don’t comply with requests or demands.
- “Burning” the targeted co-worker to prevent them from being able to work.
Initial identification of any of these behaviors gives leaders an opportunity to discuss the issues and offer ways to avoid continuation. However, if the behaviors persist over time despite being addressed, it is crucial to assess if this is truly who you want representing your organization. If you decide that this is not the right fit, it will be best to let the employee go. This is an opportunity to demonstrate leadership skills with strength with compassion.
Pivotal decisions such as these open the door to truly assist your former employee to find their right career path. Consider their strengths and in which environment they thrive. Offer to help them update their resume. Be willing and eager to write recommendation letters that highlight their strengths. Introduce, or talk them up, to other business leaders/organizations that would better fit their passions and personality. Just because an employee was not the right fit for your organization, does not mean they lack talent or purpose. Wanting to assist this employee on their journey forward, is a strong exhibit of the type of leader you are/want to be.
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