It is rare that employees are actually toxic individuals
Whilst a tiny minority of employees simply attempt to undermine others and gain as much as they can without putting in the work themselves, the vast majority of workers whom we consider to be ‘toxic’ are actually just disruptive.
‘Disruptive’ could mean loud, chatty, easily distracted, frequently away from their desk, unprofessional or unproductive…and they could be perfectly nice individuals – they don’t need to be a traditional ‘bad apple’ to be considered a serious issue for team productivity.
As an employee, it’s clear when a colleague is not pulling their weight, which leads to one of two things:
- the frustration of committing real effort only to witness someone evading their own workload
- others being pulled into the same unproductive behaviour pattern, significantly slowing-down overall progress
Whilst only a small number of employees are actually toxic, the vast majority of workers are not as engaged in their jobs as they should be. According to research by Gallup, 67% are either not engaged enough or actively disengaged altogether.
What does this imply for organisations?
The same study by Gallup found that having a disruptive team member can have significant negative effects on the overall workforce. If your company is in the bottom quartile for worker engagement, the potential effects are:
- 69% higher rates of absence
- 39% more shrinkage
- twice as many safety incidents than a company in the top quartile
So why are they still employed?
The majority of employees are continually frustrated that those not putting in the effort are rarely disciplined for their inactivity and lack of engagement. There are several reasons why this may be the case:
Firstly, some employers are simply not involved enough in the day-to-day running of the businesses to notice that one employee is dragging others down. 50% of employees have given up on hopes that their boss will ever have an interest in their work (and have actually left the company as a result) whilst 60% state that they lack engagement with their boss. Low engagement with the team – and a lack of interest – can easily lead to wrongdoings going unseen.
Secondly, it may be that the boss is actively protecting the disruptive employee. Usually, this individual is bold and talkative; whilst others try not to engage with the boss for fear of being chastised, the misplaced confidence in a disruptive employee’s personality is also what renders them endearing, securing their position as a fixture of the office.
What should leaders do?
For good bosses, the solution should be simple: listening to employees. Regular performance reviews, chats about productivity and anonymous employee surveys empower informed decisions and encourages openness and honesty.
Yes, said ‘disruptive’ employee may be a good person, but are they adding value to the business or are they merely contributing to inactivity?
Ultimately, only you can make that call.