Human Resources Blog - Spark Hire

Toxic Employees: How to Maintain Company Culture

We’ve all had to deal with toxic employees in our work lives. These are the Debbie Downers who never seem to be happy no matter what’s happening at the company. No inconvenience is too small to escape the criticism of these employees and no good news is big enough to lift their cloud of gloom.

If you think toxic employees aren’t poisoning your hard-won company culture, you are unfortunately kidding yourself. A recent article on CNN stated that approximately 5 percent of your employees could be accounting for 90 percent of people’s work-related woes. Just like the old saying, it’s completely possible in a work setting for one bad apple to spoil the bunch.

So what can you do to stop a few unhappy employees from turning your company culture gloomy? The first step is to know there’s plenty you can do to maintain your organizational values even in the face of a toxic employee. You can’t just throw in the towel and say there’s no way to change someone’s attitude. This might be true, but you’ve worked too hard to create an attractive company culture and employer brand to let a few grumps ruin your hard work.

Here are some ways to maintain your company culture, even when toxic employees are bringing it down:

Watch Your Work Environment
The last thing you want is for your your office to become a hostile work environment. To make sure this doesn’t happen, keep an eye out for aggressive people in the workplace. In a hostile work environment, employees don’t feel safe and certainly don’t feel like the company is looking out for their best interests.

Make sure toxic employees are not also becoming office bullies. Pay attention to the employees who could fill up a swear jar with their coarse language and make sure to take every complaint of bullying seriously. Nothing will hurt your company culture faster than the hostility of your workers.

Encourage Employee Outings
A great way to increase your employee morale is to get your team bonding outside the office. Plan a monthly or bi-monthly corporate outing, and make sure to listen to the suggestions of your employees. Maybe your employees want to do a day at the park or perhaps they are passionate about volunteering.

Whatever your workforce would enjoy the most, try to plan fun stress-busting trips centered around these activities. Your toxic employee might not show up, but the bonding opportunity for the rest of your team will build employee morale.

Encourage Your Most Motivated Employees
Your most motivated employees are also your brand ambassadors and company culture defenders. Don’t ignore these workers or leave them in the lurch. In your dash to improve the attitude of your most toxic employees, you might just be missing out on opportunities to reward your workers who show up to work smiling every day.

Reward good work, supply feedback, and motivate your most dedicated employees to work hard and reach high. As a bonus, the rest of your workers will see that it pays to be a highly motivated superstar instead of a sad sack Debbie Downer.

Focus on Fit in Hiring
The best way to avoid toxic employees pulling down your company culture is not to hire them in the first place. While this can be easier said than done, you can avoid hiring the wrong people if you really focus on fit in the interview process.

During the video interview, really drill down on what makes the candidate a good fit for your organization. Does the candidate like order or thrive in chaos? Do they like to really focus on one task or wear a lot of hats? Depending on the company and the position, a great candidate might end up as a toxic employee if the fit is all wrong. The video interview is the time to consider your company culture before you move forward with a job offer.

Toxic employees can really hurt your company culture and with it, your business’ bottom line. But if you focus on hiring motivated employees and encourage workplace bonding you’ll be able to offset the bad vibes of even the most mopey Debbie Downer.

What are some ways you maintain your company culture in the face of toxic employees? Share in the comments!

IMAGE: Courtesy of Flickr by ewanmcdowall

Heather Huhman

Heather R. Huhman is the Career & Recruiting Advisor for Spark Hire. She writes career and recruiting advice for numerous outlets, and is the author of Lies, Damned Lies & Internships: The Truth About Getting from Classroom to Cubicle (2011), and #ENTRYLEVELtweet: Taking Your Career from Classroom to Cubicle (2010).