PM’s Guide on How to Manage Toxic Employees During WFH

Once you shift to remote work, you will face numerous hard-to-tackle obstacles. Maneuvering through each one of these will be a test of your skills and competence. One of these hurdles is toxic employees. These employees pose a threat to the smooth completion of a project and can effectively hinder your work progress.

How to manage toxic employees? How to make sure that these employees do not bring down your whole team? What tips and tricks can be effective in managing such people? These are some of the questions that might arise in your might when you encounter a toxic employee.

In this article, we will summarize a few tips to help you understand how to manage toxic employees. These tips and tricks will make sure that your remote work experience is a smooth ride with no obstacles whatsoever.

Before we dive into the specifics, let’s take a look at the toxic traits of such employees and how you can distinguish them.

Toxic Employees – Definition And Toxic Employee Traits

Who is a toxic employee? A toxic employee is a person whose work ethics, behavior, and morals are in direct contradiction with company ethics. Their toxic nature is not only a hazard for their own work but has a negative influence on others too.

The negativity can trigger an increase in stress levels at the workplace and promote an unhealthy work environment. Resultantly, decreased levels of motivation, productivity, and efficiency, are observed in the workplace.

The most common signs of toxic employees are as follows:

  • Over-confident: Toxic employees overestimate their competence and are often apprehensive when it comes to improving their work. They are under the impression that their work is perfect and does not need any changes.
  • Self-centered: Toxic employees do not care about the well-being of their colleagues. They always put themselves first.
  • Always complaining: They are uncomplacent and are often always complaining about this or that.
  • Use underhanded means to get ahead: Such employees tend to resort to underhanded means to get ahead of their colleagues.
  • Gossiping or badmouthing colleagues: Another trait possessed by these individuals is their eagerness to gossips whenever they can about whatever they can.
  • Disrespectful: Toxic employees are not only disrespectful to the ones working under them but are harsh towards their colleagues and seniors as well.
  • Rigid: They are willing to mend their ways to adapt to changes around them and are rigid in their outlook.
  • Waste time: These employees are likely to waste their time on unnecessary stuff resulting in missed deadlines and a lower level of productivity.

Lastly, these employees are calculating, opportunistic and vindicating. Furthermore, they take pleasure in others’ downfall, manipulate their coworkers, and dislike weak people.

Types of Toxic Employees:

types-of-toxic-employees

Listed above were some of the toxic employee traits. We will now explore different types of toxic employees:

  • Underperformers: Underperformers are often unable to accomplish their goals.
  • Incompetent: These employees are unable to keep up with their tasks and often cause disruption in teamwork due to their inability to work efficiently.
  • Procrastinators: These employees spend most of their time in unnecessary talks and slack off on their work. A study revealed that 34% of employees spend more than half an hour surfing internet during work hours.
  • Egoists: They often tend to be self-centered. They overexaggerate their achievements and downgrade those of their fellow team members.
  • Gossip Monger: Gossiping and badmouthing is a trait of such employees.
  • Information hoarder: In opposition to a gossip monger, information hoarders are reluctant to share their knowledge and experience on issues and keep the information to themselves.
  • Sociopaths: No, we are not talking about Sherlock-type sociopaths-these employees are seriously toxic. They have no regard for their colleagues and often bully them to get what they want.

Why Are Toxic Employees A Threat To Smooth Working?

As we mentioned earlier, toxic employees are a threat to smooth working in a company. Their toxic traits are a source of constant pressure and stress for others working with them.

The toxic employee traits possessed by these employees are a barrier to the completion of work in the remote workplace. The signs of toxic employees can give rise to the following disadvantages:

  • Threat to company culture: Maintaining a calm and peaceful environment in the workplace is necessary to make sure employees are stress-free and input their 100% in their work. The presence of toxic employees, however, can disrupt the culture, resulting in a toxic environment that threatens everyone’s work.
  • Challenge leadership: Teamwork implies unity and a willingness to improve your work under the supervision of your direct superior. Toxic employees challenge the leadership of their superiors which leads to disruption in the hierarchy.
  • Financially inefficient: These employees are a liability to the company. Their presence is of no significant value, in fact, it puts a strain on the budget of the company.
  • A bad influence: These employees are a bad influence on their colleagues. Their toxicity can negatively affect those around them.

How To Manage Toxic Employees Efficiently?

Managing toxic employees is a skill that all project managers should possess. They should be able to hold these individuals accountable whenever the need arises. Furthermore, managers should have the ability to maintain a peaceful environment in the remote workplace, or else the toxicity will permeate and envelop everyone in the team.

We are sharing some tips and tricks that might help you understand how to manage toxic employees. Give the following a read and incorporate the strategies that suit your workplace.

1. Highlight Goals

Highlight the goals of the project from the get-go. If you leave the employees to their designs, most likely, they will either stray away from the expected path or procrastinate.

In such circumstances, highlighting the goals from the start will make them aware of the things expected of them. You can essentially set boundaries to make sure they stay on track.

2. Analyze Their Circumstances 

Before you pinpoint an employee, pick on his mistakes, or berate him for his incompetence, you must analyze their circumstances. They might be experiencing some issues that could have affected their work negatively.

A survey indicates that 51% of respondents were experiencing burnout during the pandemic. The changing circumstances might have taken a toll on employees’ mental and physical capabilities. It is important to analyze the circumstances of employees to make sure their toxic behavior is not originating from an unfortunate situation.

These issues can be related to the office or their personal life. If you notice these issues in an employee, take them to a neutral, friendly place and talk to them to resolve their issues, help them relieve their stress, and offer help in whichever way you can.

3. Address Their Toxic Behavior

Once you spot toxic behavior, you must address it as soon as possible. Project managers often tend to ignore toxic behavior in hopes that the employees will better themselves or improve their behavior soon. Around 50% of employees ignore the toxic behavior of those around them.

This can be seriously harmful since you need to nip the problem in the bud to make sure that it does not cause a serious issue in the future. Moreover, to ensure that their behavior does not infect other employees, you must address the issue as soon as possible.

This way, you will be able to keep their behavior in check and will also be able to resolve issues as soon as they arise.

If you identify serious issues such as sexual harassment or bullying, you must report the issue to the relevant authorities. Doing so will promote a healthy remote workplace culture.

4. Encourage Employees To Resolve Issues Themselves

encourage-employees-to-resolve-issues-themselve

The presence of a toxic employee means that conflicts are bound to occur. Unnecessary arguments and fights can disrupt the calmness of the remote workplace.

To make sure that such a situation does not affect the working of other employees, you must encourage your employees to handle the issues themselves. It will reduce the probability of entangling other employees in the conflict and creating chaos in the workplace.

If your employees know that they have certain boundaries that they must abide by then, they will carefully observe these boundaries to avoid any conflict. Nevertheless, if an unavoidable conflict arises, they will be able to resolve it among themselves.

The supervisor or leader of the remote team should only be contacted when these boundaries are crossed or when it becomes difficult to manage the conflict themselves.

5. Counsel Them

Offering counseling to an employee may help change their behavior for the better. When you encounter a hard-to-handle toxic employee, you can mentor them to help them adapt to the changing circumstances.

Your efforts in this respect might play a pivotal role in helping them overcome their negativity and becoming more productive and efficient.

6. Provide Feedback

Another effective strategy that might help you improve the behavior of toxic employees is providing feedback. Regular performance reviews will help them evaluate their performance.

When you want to address their behavior, avoid direct attacks, and adopt a kind and open approach. Give them room to transform themselves. Identify the areas for improvement and advise them accordingly.

7. Track Their Performance

Remote work often leads to gaps in communication and no supervision. The communication gap can lead to serious issues in the future. To avoid the occurrence of such issues, keep an eye on their progress.

As a result, these employees will be more conscious of their work and their behavior. They will stick to the rules of the company, and ensure that their behavior is within the bounds of the code of conduct. You can use remote project management tools (such as nTask) to time-track the progress of employees.

8. Let Them Go

If after all these efforts, you are still unable to mend their ways then, it is time for you to let them go. You should not employ an individual who threatens the peace of your remote workplace or is showing signs of toxic employees.

If you keep such an employee inboard, your workplace environment will likely suffer irreversible damage. Their negativity might infect others and disturb the smooth working of all the employees.

Conclusion

We mentioned some tips that might help you understand how to manage toxic employees more efficiently. By adopting these tricks, not only will you be able to minimize issues related to a toxic employee, but also create a more positive remote work environment.

The betterment in the remote workplace environment will lead to better productivity and more efficiency.

Let us know which tip sounds the best in the comments below.


More Resources for you:

Frank Miller
Frank is a senior editor and productivity enthusiast. Loves hunting and reviewing new tools. When he's not writing he's normally cooking, gardening or reading.

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