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Let’s be honest – we have all been there. Whether as a fellow employee or as a business owner; we have witnessed those toxic employees. The trouble with employees like these is that the negativity can spread thick and fast and before you know it, the whole team can become unhappy, discontent and unsatisfied. As they say, misery loves company, and a toxic employee wants to have co-conspirators to discuss how bad things are, sucking any moral and productivity out of the business.

Truth be told, it doesn’t take long for competitors, clients and prospects to notice the energy from the company too – potentially hindering growth.Internally and externally, no one will enjoy communicating with them and sooner rather than later their behaviour will significantly impact the business in more ways than one. In fact, research shows that businesses can save nearly £9000 annually by avoiding challenging employees.

Sam Williams, Director at Guardian Removals comments, “I run a small business and had a problem with toxic employees a few years ago. 3 employees were very close friends, who alienated themselves from the rest of the team. I thought at first that hiring 3 friends would benefit the company, but it had a huge impact on productivity – especially mine. I became reluctant to leave the office for meetings in case it spiralled into meltdown. When they left we took a hit because we all needed to work overtime to compensate, but if they hadn’t had left then I would’ve lost several long term members of staff. I know have a policy against hiring friends or family – including mine.”

All in all – having a challenging, miserable employee is bad for business; and the situation, however uncomfortable, should be addressed immediately.

So rather than decide that this is the type of situation that you would avoid, it really is an issue that should be tackled head on before you find yourself with an entire team that is behaving in the same way.

In many businesses, managerial staff are quick to jump in there with a rigid HR process; it’s highly likely that ‘manage them out’ becomes the preferred method of choice. However, in the current business climate it seems that a more holistic approach is being taken and strict draconian policies are put to the way side. There’s nothing like aggravating an already unhappy employee like a stern telling off in the guise of a development plan.Or even worse an ‘unofficial warning’, why not goad them into resisting authority and do some real damage?

Simply sitting down with nothing more than the goal of diffusing the situation is a far more gentle, yet effective approach. By asking the employee to explain their behaviour and what they feel is causing it will force them to take ownership of the situation and gain a more objective view of the elements that are causing the negativity.

By displaying behaviour that shows these employees that you want to help them, a level playing field will be created and you are far more likely to gain their trust and co-operation – a great place to start when searching for a long term solution rather than a quick fix.  The modern workplace is one that needs an environment built on understanding, openness and mutual respect and a culture where the team are valued as individuals and as human beings with thoughts, emotions and feelings. We spend more than one third of our lives working, it’s important to remember that employees are not robots and our lives extend beyond the 9-5.

It could be that it is not a work related issue that is the root cause of a challenging employee’s negative behaviour, and perhaps they have not realised the sheer impact their behaviour is having on the business. Either way, the employee needs to be informed in a firm and respectful way that the behaviour is damaging, and cannot continue – but you will help them in finding a lasting resolution.

Of course, there will be times when unfortunately this approach won’t work, even with the best intentions. When you have exhausted the modern approach and the negative attitude and behaviour is showing no sign of relenting – it might be appropriate to use a comprehensive HR process. Some employees may respond better to being informed that their behaviour is putting them at risk of being dismissed; while the formal performance management or disciplinary route isn’t one that is favoured by those in senior positions, it could be the shock that finally jolts them to the reality of the situation.

Employers often find themselves avoiding this process for two significant reasons; the threat of being faced with an unfair dismissal case and the cost of recruiting. However challenging an employee may be within a business, it’s difficult for them to ignore facts and performance statistics; most of us are reasonable beings at heart and those non-performers will likely agree that it would be the wrong decision for both parties for them to remain in the business.

Just because formal proceedings are taking place, it doesn’t mean that the path is clear for two-way communication. It is critical that the employer is crystal clear on the expectations that are required to be achieved, they should also feel comfortable airing concerns that they may have in achieving them; fear often displays itself in other ways. If expectations aren’t laid out clearly, they will become difficult to measure and the process becomes confusing and difficult to manage.  However, Employment Lawyer at Taylor Rose TTKW has some solid words of advice –

“There’s a common misconception that it is impossible to sack staff, or that you have to follow a particular process, but the truth is quite different. As long as you have a combination of one of the five fair statutory reasons; conduct or behaviour, capability, redundancy, breach of statutory restriction or some other substantial reason such as a restructure”.

With regards to the cost of recruiting, when compared to the money that is being lost through unproductivity and the cost of losing dissatisfied customers, it is likely that a new recruit is the lesser of two evils.

To give you peace of mind and ensure that your company is protected, its best practice to seek legal advice, or consult with a HR professional before beginning proceedings. Experienced HR professionals are also able to provide advice or alternative routes you could take to resolve the situation, or ways that you can proactively prevent a challenging employee being recruited again. The threat of these employees damaging your brands perception and reputation is very real; focus your efforts on incentivising and rewarding your staff and creating an environment that breeds both positivity and productivity.

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