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STAFF MATTERS: New research sheds light on toxic behaviours in the workplace

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Your behaviour can have an impact on your colleagues.
Your behaviour can have an impact on your colleagues.

According to a recent survey conducted by us at WorkNest, less than one in 10 cases (6 per cent) of dealing with toxic employees in the workplace are successfully resolved.

More worryingly, as a result of failing to successfully resolve them, or ignoring toxic behaviours completely, 63 per cent of employers have lost one or more employees due to the knock-on effect on company culture and team morale.

The survey of 466 UK employers also revealed that long-serving members of staff are the biggest culprits, with over half (58 per cent) of employers reporting that these employees exhibit toxic behaviour the most. When toxic behaviour is identified, nearly one quarter (23 per cent) of employers feel they can’t address it due to a lack of any clear evidence to base conversations around.

Toxic employees can quickly poison a workplace. Their negative attitude, disruptive behaviour, and lack of accountability can have a profound impact on team dynamics, morale, and overall productivity. Like a virus, their toxic behaviour spreads, infecting the work environment and damaging relationships between colleagues.

Identifying toxic employees can be challenging, as they often possess certain traits that may not be immediately obvious. They may be adept at hiding their true nature during the hiring process or disguise their toxicity under a façade of professionalism. However, their detrimental effects become evident over time, as their toxic behaviour begins to unravel.

It’s crucial for organisations to address toxic employees promptly and effectively, because ignoring or tolerating toxic behaviour not only jeopardises the wellbeing of the workforce but also compromises the overall success of the organisation.

With many organisations focusing heavily on recruitment and retention right now, employers risk harming their reputation as a preferred employer by bringing new employees into a ‘leaky bucket’ if action isn’t taken to resolve the underlying root cause of toxic behaviours.

I would advise employers to look inwards and ask what they can do to reduce toxicity in their workplace for the benefit of both the company and its employees. Just as the quality of soil greatly influences the growth of a plant, employers’ actions can either nurture a positive work environment or inadvertently, if gone unchecked, allow a seed to grow that enables the development of toxic individuals.

While some people’s behaviour will be unjustifiably toxic and require disciplinary action or even dismissal, employers should not see these situations as an individual problem but as a symptom that something within your organisation might need work, and then look to find the root cause.

By taking proactive steps to identify and address toxicity, organisations can create a healthier and more productive work environment where all employees can thrive.

Mary McGeady is a senior HR consultant at WorkNest.

Mary McGeady.
Mary McGeady.

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