Toxic employees are the single major workplace issue for Australian employers within SMEs, based on findings by Employsure, Australia’s largest employee relations advisory service.
In the 12 months to May 2015, more than 60 per cent of employer calls to Employsure’s Advisory Services centre – which fields 350 calls a day from more than 6000 employers – were for advice on employee conduct issues.
Short-service dismissal, written warnings, probationary termination, and termination for serious misconduct topped the list of conduct matters but unfortunately, few small business employers are aware of what they can and can’t do when dealing with difficult behaviour.
They can remove toxic behaviour by developing solid employee contracts, workplace policies and a performance management program, and knowing their rights and obligations as employers.
If they ignore the issues, toxic employees and managers can soon lead to cancerous workplaces – ultimately affecting the business’ success.
Here are my tips on how to manage these seven types of toxic employees:
1. The Gossipmonger
This employee fibs, gossips and tells tall tales. Employers should be most concerned about employees lying to customers and management about deliverables or outcomes, or lying to management about customers or other employees.
An employee may be subject to disciplinary action, including dismissal, if they are found to have acted for malicious reasons or in pursuit of a personal grudge.
This kind of behaviour may seem trivial but it can be damaging and that’s why it’s covered in legislation. You can make it clear that this kind of behaviour is not appropriate in employee manuals and covering it in induction processes.
2. The Offloader
This employee will not hold back when delegating. They do little work and somehow manage to take the credit for other people’s work.
As an employer, you can put a clear performance and review policy in place to monitor poor staff performance. Reviews can take place quarterly if necessary.
These programs are not just there to discipline staff, they can empower and encourage an employee to deliver results, too.
The Frequent Indulger
This employee can often take sick days that coincide with public holidays, or often arrive at work late feeling the effects of a big weekend.
Employers need to train staff on good conduct and they can include clear descriptions of unacceptable behaviour in an employment handbook.
Also, if you feel that sick leave is being abused, you can schedule a return-to-work interview. An employee is less likely to take a sickie when they have to face their manager the next day.
Sick Leave Policies can stipulate that a doctor’s certificate is mandatory, and also that the employee must make it a point to notify or call their line manager before their normal start time if they are going to be sick or away from work.
4. The Pilferer
Ever had some unexplained transactions on a company credit card? Or seen odd or large cab charge receipts? If other employees complain that personal items are missing, too, you might have a thief in your midst.
The Pilferer is confidently sneaky, and their behaviour may go unnoticed for some time.
Employers have a couple of options to protect themselves and other staff members from thieves, including a Right to Search Policy and a Surveillance Policy. These should be documented and staff should be made aware of them.
5. The Tanty Thrower
Reacting to stress is one thing, but yelling, threatening or swearing at colleagues is an immediate red flag. As an employer, if you don’t address bullying immediately, you could find yourself dealing with it in court.
In 2014, The Fair Work Commission introduced an order for employees to submit applications to stop bullying they may have experienced at work.
This change enables any employee to lodge a bullying claim. Implementing an Anti-bullying Policy can protect businesses before a bullying claim is made.
Training managers on how to conduct themselves at work is another option. Managers are highly influential. If a good example is set, employees usually follow this
6. The Royalista
This employee is far from treating the client as king. It is their way or the highway and you only find out about the client relationship deterioration until it is too late. They may need to be performance managed and a disciplinary procedure should be used to investigate the wrongdoings.
7. The Divulger
This employee over-shares internal company information at industry events attended by competitors or with external stakeholders. It can be very damaging to business when that information is your next big business idea.
Employers are in danger of running into this issue if they don’t have a Conflict of Interest Procedure and a Confidentiality Agreement in place – these need to be explained to all new employees when they start and the agreement needs to be signed by everyone.
Edward Mallett is an employee relations barrister and Managing Director of Employsure, Australia’s largest employee relations advisory service for SMEs, working to ensure employers are compliant with the Fair Work Act 2009, offering unlimited advisory services, and providing insurance and legal representation. Founded in 2010, it now has more than 5,000 clients, more than 95 per cent of which are SMEs.