If one bad apple spoils a whole bunch, then what about one toxic employee?
Most of us know the answer all too well. Toxic employees come in many forms. There are yellers, liars, blamers and system gamers. There are intimidators, loafers, battlers and tattlers.
Any one of these or a hundred other negative personalities can cause a feeling of dread every time you pull into the parking lot. Toxic employees spawn toxic work environments, and what happens during those eight hours a day can hinder people’s happiness and opinion of their employer. It can also impact a company’s bottom line.
According to a 2015 study by the workforce recruiting and training firm Cornerstone OnDemand, good employees are 54 percent more likely to quit when they work with a toxic employee, even if there’s only one of them on a team of 20. The report also concluded that each toxic worker costs a company approximately $12,800 in replacement costs — training the new person, conducting searches and interviews, etc. – to say nothing of the hit to a company’s reputation and the resulting difficulties attracting top talent that follow high turnover.
What You Don’t Know WILL Hurt – Everyone.
Toxic cultures can take root without management knowing a word about it, until the exit interviews start piling up. Part of the reason is that good workers will often try to ride it out for a while rather than talk to anyone about it. They are scared to make a bad situation worse while not even seeing the situation solved, and then their only comments will be their resignation. When in a toxic workplace these good employees often ‘vote with their feet’.
According to a national survey of over 1,000 full-time employees by the conflict resolution firm Fierce, 53 percent of respondents said they handle toxic employees by trying to ignore them, while just under a quarter confront them directly. Only 18 percent said they complain to management. Forty-one percent said that even if they did tell their higher-ups, they don’t believe anything would be done to address the situation.
Whether these responses are driven by personal experiences or conversations picked up at the water cooler, the fear is real — and may not be entirely wrong. Some toxic employees have a talent for positioning themselves to avoid notice or repercussions from management, among them:
- The Manager’s Buddy: Skilled in the arts of office politics, no one suspects they have it in them to make their colleagues miserable.
- The High Achievers: When your sales numbers are the best on the staff, people are less inclined to look for your downsides.
- The Veterans: After working in the office for 23 years, people get accustomed to looking the other way for their “quirks.”
- Jekyll & Hydes: Experts at flying under the radar, they become totally different people around those who can make life difficult for them.
You Gave Them A Role. Now Give Them A Voice.
“Company leaders need to ensure that all employees are empowered with the tools to address these toxic individuals in a productive and ultimately successful way,” said Stacey Engle, executive vice president at Fierce, Inc.
Perhaps most important among those tools is a voice. The survey numbers bear out what many of us who have been in the position understand – that complaining to management seems too risky to go through with. The fears are real: too many employees fear being at the mercy of a human resource worker or administrator who could approach their complaint with disinterest, accept the toxic co-worker’s version of events, or worse, tell this person what you said, make no attempt to resolve it and leave you to co-exist in an office that’s more tense than before.
An anonymous reporting system like STOPit can help build trust, foster a healthier workplace culture and help solve these problems. Reports submitted through STOPit are 100 percent anonymous – there is no way for the employer to know who they are talking to. With the safe distance the arrangement provides, employees can share information, gauge the company’s initial response and grow comfortable enough to come forward and state their concerns on the record.
Prove It: Without Action, Words and Policies Aren’t Enough
For a company’s leadership, giving employees a voice and a safe way to reach out for help is more important than ever as the competition to attract and retain top talent is only increasing. Companies who aspire to rise to the top in their industry — and stay there — know that the culture they create and promote for employees matters as much, and oftentimes more, than the highest salary offer or a ping-pong table in the break room when coveted talent considers taking their offer and investing their talent long-term.
For 20 years, Fortune has compiled the list of 100 Best Companies to Work For, and in 20 years, the criteria remained unchanged.
Not so moving forward. This year Fortune announced it is updating its criteria, giving much more weight to employees’ perception of fairness, corporate ethics and inclusiveness,
“Central to our new approach is Maximizing Human Potential: we now assess how well companies create a consistently positive experience for all employees, no matter who they are or what they do for the organization. We did this to reflect the reality of the world today, and to recognize and learn from the inclusive organizations that are setting the pace. Not just for moral reasons, but for business reasons. Our most recent research shows companies that rate most highly according to our new “For All” standard grow revenue three times faster than their less-inclusive rivals. In other words, while trust fuels business performance at great workplaces, “For All” accelerates it.” Michael Bush and Sarah Lewis-Kulin
The right anonymous reporting can offer an honest picture of what’s going on in the office and allow leadership to intervene early on when problem employees begin affecting their co-workers and pushing down the bottom-line. Anonymous reporting can provide a direct line from workers at any level of the company to its decision makers – a way around those who a good worker may feel too worried to approach.
Compared to the deep cost of letting a toxic employee poison your office culture and piling up the hours spent filling the vacancies of your top employees, choosing an anonymous reporting solution that is easy to implement and use is a smart, economical business decision.
Contact STOPit today to learn how anonymous reporting can help build and support a healthier, more productive office culture for your company.