How to Identify a Toxic Employee

How to Identify a Toxic Employee

Toxic employees aren’t always over-the-top bullies—they’re anyone who negatively affects the morale and productivity of your workplace.[1] X Research source Whether you’re a boss or fellow co-worker, it’s important to recognize and acknowledge who is toxic so you can better manage your own time and energy at your work station. Take a day or 2 to observe your workspace and see if you notice any red flags.

Method 1 of 2:
Spotting Overbearing Employees

1
Observe employees to see if any of them are overconfident. Look for individuals who view themselves as overly capable for a job. As a test, give your employee a survey where they have to rate their skill levels. Compare their results to their actual capabilities in the workspace, which can give you an idea of their confidence levels. [2] X Research source For instance, if a person rates themselves with a 5 out of 5 rating for typing but can only type 50 words a minute, they’re likely overconfident. Overconfident employees tend to be toxic since they think they can get away with things.
2
Listen to an employee to see if they have a selfish attitude. Look for workers who only seem to care about their own problems, and don’t offer much empathy to their co-workers. Keep in mind that most selfish individuals are unaware of their attitude, and they don’t care if or how they contribute to a negative workspace. [3] X Research source Be on the lookout for an employee who repeatedly refuses to help their employees.
3
Watch out for workers with a pompous, know-it-all attitude. Listen to basic employee conversations and see how different workers portray themselves. Note that a lot of self-assured, know-it-all employees may be contributing to a toxic work environment, especially if they refuse to accept critiques. [4] X Research source If an employee repeatedly refuses to accept criticism, they probably fall into this category.
4
Listen for people who initiate a lot of gossip. Take note of any drama being spread around the workplace. Note that people who participate in gossip are generally toxic, especially if they’re distracting other employees with their tall tales. [5] X Research source If gossip is a big problem in your workspace, you may need to separate yourself or other employees so there isn’t as much temptation to talk.
5
Watch for employees who bully or belittle others. Look for workers who are intimidating and rude to other employees. These people will try to humiliate others in a public setting, instead of settling their issues in public. For better or worse, this is a very obvious red flag for toxicity in the workplace. [6] X Research source For instance, it’s not a good sign if an employee makes a big issue about someone grabbing their lunch, instead of addressing the person individually.
6
Check your email to see if the employee sends off-color messages. Flag any unprofessional emails that an employee sends your way. These messages show that your employee doesn’t respect the professionalism of the workplace, and that they don’t respect employee boundaries either. [7] X Research source
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Method 2 of 2:
Dealing with Subtle Toxicity

1
Look for employees who have a negative mindset toward their work. Listen for workers who are always complaining, regardless of the day. Note that persistently grumpy employees are more likely to get into tiffs with coworkers, which can lead to a toxic environment. [8] X Research source It’s normal for employees to complain once in a while. It only becomes a red flag when the worker is complaining 24/7. In many cases, these workers refuse to compromise their feelings and will remain grumpy even if you offer to fix the situation.
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PLOYEE WHO REPEATEDLY REFUSES TO HELP their employees.

1
Watch out for employees who consistently procrastinate. Keep track of deadlines for your workspace and how well employees adhere to them. Take note of any workers who repeatedly turn in work late or make an off-handed excuse that they’ll get it done another time. While occasional procrastination isn’t a red flag, repeated occurrences are a big deal, and may signal a toxic employee. [9] X Research source Take note of the established deadlines for your workspace and write down if the employee submitted their work on time or not.
2
Note if any employees are workaholics. Keep an eye out for workers who are on the verge of burning themselves out. While these workers are productive, note that they may be close to their breaking point, which can lead to toxic situations. [10] X Research source If an employee is really stressed or overworked, they may start making mistakes. Workaholics tend to be control freaks.
3
Listen for employees who claim to be strict rule followers. Keep an eye out for employees who are persistently talking about how important the rules are, or how the workplace rules always need to be obeyed. Note that all employees, for better or worse, will bend rules from time to time, which makes it suspicious for someone to be an adamant rule follower. [11] X Research source If someone claims to always follow the rules, you can assume that they aren’t the most honest person—after all, most people have either bent or broken a workplace rule at some point.
4
Look for employees who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Watch for an employee’s reaction when something bad or unexpected happens, like a simple mistake. Listen if the worker takes credit for their role in the error, or if they pass the blame to someone else. If someone persistently blames others for issues, you can assume that they’re a toxic employee. [12] X Trustworthy Source Harvard Business Review Online and print journal covering topics related to business management practices Go to source Denying responsibility once or twice isn’t a big deal. It becomes a problem when a worker repeats this behavior constantly.
5
Recognize when someone is being a “yes-person.” Be wary of people who persistently agree with authority and who refuse to make their own opinions. This behavior can be toxic, as it shows that your employee doesn’t have a a desire to grow or improve in the office. [13] X Research source Being a yes-person is different than being agreeable. As the nickname suggests, a yes-person will agree all the time and refuse to make their own opinions.
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Method 1 of 2:
Spotting Overbearing Employees

1
Observe employees to see if any of them are overconfident. Look for individuals who view themselves as overly capable for a job. As a test, give your employee a survey where they have to rate their skill levels. Compare their results to their actual capabilities in the workspace, which can give you an idea of their confidence levels. [2] X Research source For instance, if a person rates themselves with a 5 out of 5 rating for typing but can only type 50 words a minute, they’re likely overconfident. Overconfident employees tend to be toxic since they think they can get away with things.
2
Listen to an employee to see if they have a selfish attitude. Look for workers who only seem to care about their own problems, and don’t offer much empathy to their co-workers. Keep in mind that most selfish individuals are unaware of their attitude, and they don’t care if or how they contribute to a negative workspace. [3] X Research source Be on the lookout for an employee who repeatedly refuses to help their employees.
3
Watch out for workers with a pompous, know-it-all attitude. Listen to basic employee conversations and see how different workers portray themselves. Note that a lot of self-assured, know-it-all employees may be contributing to a toxic work environment, especially if they refuse to accept critiques. [4] X Research source If an employee repeatedly refuses to accept criticism, they probably fall into this category.
4
Listen for people who initiate a lot of gossip. Take note of any drama being spread around the workplace. Note that people who participate in gossip are generally toxic, especially if they’re distracting other employees with their tall tales. [5] X Research source If gossip is a big problem in your workspace, you may need to separate yourself or other employees so there isn’t as much temptation to talk.
5
Watch for employees who bully or belittle others. Look for workers who are intimidating and rude to other employees. These people will try to humiliate others in a public setting, instead of settling their issues in public. For better or worse, this is a very obvious red flag for toxicity in the workplace. [6] X Research source For instance, it’s not a good sign if an employee makes a big issue about someone grabbing their lunch, instead of addressing the person individually.
6
Check your email to see if the employee sends off-color messages. Flag any unprofessional emails that an employee sends your way. These messages show that your employee doesn’t respect the professionalism of the workplace, and that they don’t respect employee boundaries either. [7] X Research source
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Method 2 of 2:
Dealing with Subtle Toxicity

1
Look for employees who have a negative mindset toward their work. Listen for workers who are always complaining, regardless of the day. Note that persistently grumpy employees are more likely to get into tiffs with coworkers, which can lead to a toxic environment. [8] X Research source It’s normal for employees to complain once in a while. It only becomes a red flag when the worker is complaining 24/7. In many cases, these workers refuse to compromise their feelings and will remain grumpy even if you offer to fix the situation.
Advertisement

PLOYEE WHO REPEATEDLY REFUSES TO HELP their employees.

1
Watch out for employees who consistently procrastinate. Keep track of deadlines for your workspace and how well employees adhere to them. Take note of any workers who repeatedly turn in work late or make an off-handed excuse that they’ll get it done another time. While occasional procrastination isn’t a red flag, repeated occurrences are a big deal, and may signal a toxic employee. [9] X Research source Take note of the established deadlines for your workspace and write down if the employee submitted their work on time or not.
2
Note if any employees are workaholics. Keep an eye out for workers who are on the verge of burning themselves out. While these workers are productive, note that they may be close to their breaking point, which can lead to toxic situations. [10] X Research source If an employee is really stressed or overworked, they may start making mistakes. Workaholics tend to be control freaks.
3
Listen for employees who claim to be strict rule followers. Keep an eye out for employees who are persistently talking about how important the rules are, or how the workplace rules always need to be obeyed. Note that all employees, for better or worse, will bend rules from time to time, which makes it suspicious for someone to be an adamant rule follower. [11] X Research source If someone claims to always follow the rules, you can assume that they aren’t the most honest person—after all, most people have either bent or broken a workplace rule at some point.
4
Look for employees who refuse to take responsibility for their actions. Watch for an employee’s reaction when something bad or unexpected happens, like a simple mistake. Listen if the worker takes credit for their role in the error, or if they pass the blame to someone else. If someone persistently blames others for issues, you can assume that they’re a toxic employee. [12] X Trustworthy Source Harvard Business Review Online and print journal covering topics related to business management practices Go to source Denying responsibility once or twice isn’t a big deal. It becomes a problem when a worker repeats this behavior constantly.
5
Recognize when someone is being a “yes-person.” Be wary of people who persistently agree with authority and who refuse to make their own opinions. This behavior can be toxic, as it shows that your employee doesn’t have a a desire to grow or improve in the office. [13] X Research source Being a yes-person is different than being agreeable. As the nickname suggests, a yes-person will agree all the time and refuse to make their own opinions.
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