Solutions to deal with toxic staff members

Jul 8, 2018 | HR Solutions |

Imagine being a business owner who, by your own admission, would rather chew off your right arm than deal with a staff member needing performance management.

When I was told that this was the case in a situation, I could hardly believe what I was hearing – and the impact on the business was plain to see.

In small businesses the impact of a rogue staff member, a cultural misfit, a complainer or someone who dumps their toxic energy in the workplace can be a disaster for the efforts of staff who are truly on the right bus.  The issue is that so many managers, CEO’s and HR managers I mentor find it isn’t easy to performance manage situations detrimental to the business.

I was working with one small business in the healthcare sector recently where a receptionist who’d been in the role for about two years was described by her employer as the “petticoat marfia” and yet he felt powerless to elicit the outcomes he sought because of her attitude.  The main challenge was that, from a task perspective, her work performance was faultless.  That said, he tiptoed around her in the hope that keeping to the best side of her moodiness and toxicity would resolve the fact that he dreaded going into his own business everyday.  I kid you not, this man was paying the employee for the result of him feeling overwhelmed and intimidated in his own business.  Thankfully I had some great ideas for him.

These ideas will resonate with you if you want peace, harmony, fun and happiness in your workplace.

If you are like me and you believe that most job tasks can be taught. However, having a staffer with an incongruent personality, different values, dramatic personal problems that are brought to work, a toxic nature and bullying tendencies often cannot be effectively transformed. It is not up to you to be doing this unless your business is specifically for rehabilitating and assisting people who recognise their attitudes and personality in the workplace as an issue in their own career.

In this case the staff member needs to be both willing and committed to personal growth in order to resolve these issues and your business needs to be equipped with the resources to do this.  If not, I’m going to suggest that this isn’t your responsibility as a manager or an employer.  This isn’t about wrong or right, it’s just about “different” – like a square peg in a round hole.  If the issue is taking your attention, making you over-think and creating stress, then the signs are loud and clear.

In one US study, 97% of respondents said that they knew of a person who they would describe as a toxic co-worker.  The study of drama like this is something that I am intrigued by because it’s so amazing to realise and transform it into something far more enlightening.  A model that I love for it’s simplicity is the concept of dysfunctional relationships developed in the late 1960’s by Dr Stephen Karpman for Alcoholics Anonymous.  He describes the 3 roles of victim, persecutor and rescuer that are evident in so many dysfunctional relationships.  The participants revolve between the roles creating a drama triangle with seemingly no escape.  I share some great stories and refer to solutions for drama inspired by Karpman’s thinking in my first book in the Lateral-Thinking Entrepreneur series.

How are you going to make a bold move and free yourself from this affliction? My suggestion is that you reverse engineer and think laterally.  The first step is to take yourself out of the drama and then in your imagination or mind’s eye imagine you are watching the behaviour play out like you’re watching a movie.  In this you are being the observer.  When you become the observer, the emotional charge is reduced. Then, become the creator of what you want instead.  To do this you need to be observant of the personal and business cost of the toxic employee and the outcome you are seeking instead.  What do you want?  Write it down.  Meeting toxicity with your own anger and upset is probably going to make matters worse.

By remaining at a high vibration and observing and then calmly (and I’m going to say lovingly to your own self) creating the peace you want, you are better equipped to lead and pace the person to where you need them to go.  Calmly and honestly performance managing by repeatedly stating what “is” acceptable needs to be your daily focus.  Refuse to take it on by caring enough for yourself to let the person know what’s expected and do this by observing and creating.  This is about differences and not polarising right and wrong.  A toxic person’s model of the world is 100% right for them and the fact that you have a different belief is 100% right for you too.  I call this process narrowing the playpen.  When a playpen gets too small the person inside pops out.  That means they resign or are managed out the business.

What if this doesn’t quite work for you or takes more time than you’d like it to?  Firstly, have patience. You have put up with a lot and your new approach may come as a shock.  If the person’s needs have always been met through drama and toxicity then this is likely a learned behaviour from childhood.  You may want to seek the help of an external HR firm or look toward a few business mentoring sessions to get the communication tweaks you need to get through it.

I have in my heart a vision for your success with this.  I hear how it’s not easy and I want you to know that thinking laterally will be liberating!  The feeling of heaviness can turn to light and you’ll love yourself for the effort.  Start today!