10 Ways to Spot a BAD APPLE in your Business; TOXIC EMPLOYEES. 6 Steps to AVOID Them By Learning to Hire SLOW + Fire FAST!

10 Ways to Spot a BAD APPLE in your Business; TOXIC EMPLOYEES. 6 Steps to AVOID Them By Learning to Hire SLOW + Fire FAST!

Anyone who has run a small or large business for any time at all knows all about toxic employees.  They are insidious, they cause disruption, lack of productivity and profits, they stir up the pot, seek allies among your good employees, they want to fashion your workplace where you are supposed to call the shots into their workplace where they manipulate the work environment.  They are slackers, unmotivated, self-centered, undermining, malcontents who deep down resent you for your success and want your business to fail.   They cannot get under authority, they gossip, they back-stab, and they have the mindset of a sociopath.

The main purpose of any business is to bring value to its customers and make a profit.  Usually, the greater the value, the greater the profit.  But the toxic employee has a whole different agenda in your business.  They want to draw people to themselves, they want to lead revolts, they want to influence fellow-employees to think both you and your business have an evil agenda and every dollar you make is blood money that you ring out of the hides of your employees.

Great employees love their jobs, are enthusiastic, go the extra mile, and above all are on the team.  The old adage of one bad apple spoiling the barrel is the objective of the toxic employee.   Sometimes they are not even aware that they carry this grudge against their employer.  Perhaps they have been socialized in such a manner in their youth and early adulthood that they just believe all employers are evil inherently.  No matter the underlying reason, they are toxic poison to your business.

10 Ways to Recognize a Toxic Employee

Toxic employees are not that hard to spot, particularly after you’ve dealt with a few of them and been burned by them.  The following are just some of the traits of a toxic employee:

  1. When talking about the work of the company, they refer to “me” or “I” instead of “us” or “we.” They are NEVER team players.  They are slackers.  They take every break, every vacation or sick day, they come in late and leave early every opportunity they have.
  1. They never take responsibility for anything. When things go wrong, it is always someone else’s fault – usually management. They undermine management at every opportunity with fellow employees and customers.
  1. They will throw a fellow employee under the bus whenever they can. Likewise, they will throw the company under the bus anytime they can as well.
  1. They take credit for everything; responsibility for nothing.
  1. They try to turn every “meeting” into a “debate.” They are always going against the grain, trying to gather others to their point of view. 
  1. They always think they should be paid more to accomplish less and never happy with their compensation or advancement.
  1. Often, they will steal even the smallest items from the company (like pencils and tablets); cheat on expenses and reimbursables, misuse the company credit card on personal items; abuse company property like computers and automobiles. They believe stealing time is their right; you can depend on them spending large amounts of time on social media at work – oftentimes looking for the next job opportunity.
  1. They will push their work off on others at every opportunity, while complaining they are overworked. They are hard to pin down on what they are actually doing on a daily basis, and think that they should not be accountable to anyone.
  1. They are Captains of the Water Cooler chatter; they love to gossip, especially about the boss and management. They feel entitled to gossip, are constantly bad mouthing the company and management, and want to give orders; not take them; and they always discount the ideas of others.
  1. Their temperament: They are always unhappy, have a sour puss on their face all day, easily lose their temper with supervisors and subordinates alike.

6 Steps to AVOID Hiring Toxic Employees

Toxic employees can wreak havoc on your company, on your good employees, and on the bottom-line.  In fact, they are much like skunks, they want to spray their stink everywhere they can; it is how they protect themselves and is just a natural response any time they are threatened.  No matter how proactive you are in your hiring, a skunk or two is going to slip under the radar and find themselves on your payroll.   The following are some strategies to limit the probability that you hire a skunk (toxic employee):

  1. Set clear behavioral expectations when hiring. Make it clear that toxic behavior will not be tolerated and that everyone must prove themselves worthy of the team or else.
  1. Much toxic behavior comes from outside the workplace. Be careful of hiring people who are in personal turmoil like divorce, have addiction issues, or family members whose addiction issues they are saddled with. 
  1. Clearly define and set workplace goals BEFORE hiring a person and make sure they are up to the task. Then review them often to make sure they are on track.
  1. Check references and read between the lines. Many employers are reluctant to tell future employers about the toxic nature of an individual.  Look for cues in speech or how they give a reference, like “we will only tell you their date of hire and date of departure.”  Beware of people who have had a series of short-term employments.
  1. Beware that a toxic employee will take your business down in a New York minute, possibly cost you good employees, and almost always cost you big dollars because of lack of productivity or losing customers or other good employees.
  1. Hire slow and fire fast. Understand that toxic employees are very hard to turnaround and don’t waste a lot of time with them.  When they show their colors, give them one warning at the most, and then show them the door if the behavior continues.  You and your company will benefit from this no-nonsense approach to the toxic employee.

In my consulting and coaching practice, as well as in my own businesses, I have seen the harm that can occur when a toxic employee hangs around too long.  If you own a small company, you are the captain of the ship, you are the person most responsible for the success or failure of your company so be sure to steer clear of hiring bad apples and your business will flourish!

Hear these and more ideas for successful living every week on my weekly radio show: Makin It! (www.makinitnow.com)


Keep fighting the good fight – “GET BACK UP!”