Blog Post

    How to Deal With Negative Colleagues Without Losing Your Cool

    You’ve probably run into a “Negative Nancy” or a “Toxic Tom” or two in your career already. These are the folks who undermine other people's work, complain constantly, and make you wish that you could lift your cubicle off the ground and quietly shuffle as far away from them as possible. 

    It turns out mean-spirited employees aren’t just an annoyance. Cornerstone OnDemand determined that good workers are 54% more likely to quit when working with a toxic person, and re:Work found that a single toxic colleague can cost their company as much as $12,000 per year in damaged culture and productivity.

    Say 'no' to toxic employees without getting hot under the collar—these strategies will help you deal with negative colleagues, whether you are an experienced manager or a new hire.

    Address the Situation Immediately

    Toxic behavior rarely resolves itself - you cannot hope to duck and cover and let the storm blow over. For instance, Riot Games, maker of the hit videogame “League of Legends,” determined that employees who acted in a toxic manner while playing the videogame with coworkers tended to act out negatively in the workplace later on as well.

    Unwilling to let the behavior become a greater problem, the Riot Games' talent team flagged the most blatant offenders and brought them in to discuss their conduct. Addressing the issue early on resulted in several troublesome employees exiting the company before damaging the firm's morale any further, as well as led to behavioral improvements of remaining staff members. Game on, Riot Games.

    Toxic colleagues 2.pngFind the Source of the Problem

    People tend to take behavior personally, frequently assuming that an angry coworker is specifically angry at them

    If you’re feeling attacked, try talking to the toxic colleague about whether their negativity is a result of your actions or something completely unrelated. You never know when a coworker might be lashing out because their finances or personal relationships are suffering, and all they need is an empathetic listener to feel heard and understood.

    Quietly Build Proof

    If a colleague or a subordinate continues bullying behavior that negatively affects others, it could be time to switch into a proof-gathering mode. Zen Workplace recommends tracking all incidences by documenting:

    • The date of every confrontation
    • A brief, two-sentence description of the events

    This exercise provides a more detatched perspective, helping you determine whether the intensity of your reaction is appropriate to the situation. If the incident is serious enough to warrant attention from higher-ups, you would have already documented all the proof you may need to substantiate your concerns.  

    Tip for managers and team leaders: Implementing an open door policy can promote communication surrounding staff issues and encourage employees to come to you directly when they have a problem.

    Distance Yourself From Toxic Employees

    Only 10% of workplace bullies get fired for their behavior; they are more likely to get transferred to another location with the same company, according to a U.S. Workplace Bullying Study. If your company can’t let go of a toxic employee, ask for the next best option: transferring them to another location or a different position. 

    Create a Strong Company Culture

    Hands down, the best solution for dealing with detrimental employees is not letting it get to that point in the first place. How? By proactively building a great company culture and fulfilling work relationships.

    • Gallup observed that employees who had a best friend in the workplace were 27% more likely to feel that their opinions were valued at work
    • The Harvard Business Review determined that, unsurprisingly so,treating one another with respect, gratitude, trust, and integrity” is essential for a positive workplace culture.

    Putting company culture first minimizes the risk of hiring someone who could be the wrong fit in the first place, and increases the odds that coworkers will build rewarding—not detrimental—relationships.

    A poor onboarding program can lead employees astray and result in a toxic workplace. Watch out for these 5 warning signs that your onboarding program will fail and fix it before it is too late.



    Topics: HR
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