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how to stop toxic employees

Have you ever come out of a meeting thinking, wow, there are some terrible people are working here!

  1. Some only care about making themselves look good, so they pull down everyone around them, focusing on every little mistake that they make.
  2. You have the ones who have to steal other peoples ideas since they can’t come up with any on their own.
  3. There are still others who spend most of their time complaining about how terrible things are, but never do anything to make things better.
  4. Then there are the ones who purposely make themselves appear helpless so that others can take pity on them and do their work for them.
  5. Some spend endless time kibitzing instead of working
  6. Others think that they are making themselves look good by sending emails at all hours of the night and weekends.

What percentage, do you think, of the people around you at work, actually spend time working? You know, the ones who focus on the task at hand, solve problems on their own and help others when they need help — the ones who lessen your burden instead of adding to it. Think back to the last meeting you were in – how many of those people do you think are productive workers, and how many are time wasters? What percentage comes to work with an attitude of getting things done, and what percent comes in with a help me live through the day attitude. Wouldn’t you prefer the former?

Have you ever wondered, how did they get this way?

I’m sure that your hiring practices are strong enough to screen out these terrible employees, but yet, every company has them. If your screening process worked, then you may have an even more negative thought. What if your company culture itself is converting good incoming new hires into terrible people? Or is it possible that the reason that these people are here is that someone wanted them here? Is there a chance that someone somewhere feels that these so-called terrible employees are providing some utility?

Either way, it is HR’s job to solve.

A three-pronged attack will work: attack the new hires by creating more stringent screening policies. Use people designated “bar raisers” who will look at new hires with a more critical eye: will this person improve the culture of the company or not? Refine your screening process only to bring in the most innovative, productive, risk-takers.

Secondly, bring in a layer of strong project and program managers who can guide your workforce in the same direction. These kinds of PMs can be the fire in the jungle: when one starts, all animals, predator, and prey will run in the same direction. This is what you need, a workforce aligned in unison towards productivity, innovation, and delightful customer experience.

Thirdly, it’s essential to incentivize for innovation, improved customer experience, and new product development as opposed to smart career management. This is how many of the most significant breakthroughs of today happened – they were envisioned in labs where the incentives came from building amazing new products and inventing, not by having the biggest department, having the most impressive title or the biggest paycheck.

Remember that the next time you are building incentive programs.


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