For most managers, learning how to effectively lead a team is a daunting task. Understanding what skills everyone brings to the table, and how to use them to the company’s advantage, is a challenge on its own. But oftentimes the most difficult part of management is knowing how to deal with that one employee or manager. The one who always seems to be in the middle of a heated argument, the one whose name is constantly brought up in HR meetings. Here are a few tips on how to manage a toxic employee or manager.
How to handle a toxic employee:
Look Past Their Brilliance
To form an objective opinion on a difficult employee, you need to separate their work performance from their behaviour. Sometimes the most competent worker can have a poor attitude, which eventually affects the rest of the team. This can be destructive to the company’s morale in the long run, so how do you correct the problem? Start by keeping an eye on their team dynamics; jot down feedback from their co-workers; document HR complaints. Make it clear that the employee’s performance is not relevant to the issue, but rather it’s their attitude that’s a problem. Once you stop rationalizing their troubling behaviour because of the value they bring to the organization, you’ll begin to see the full picture more clearly.
Reinforce Accountability for Everyone
There’s only one set of rules for the whole team, and everyone should understand that. If others become aware that certain people get a pass for their bad behaviour, resentment and dysfunction will begin to simmer beneath the surface. Be firm with your team and make your expectations clear. Establish the ground rules for appropriate behaviour, and reinforce the penalties for not adhering to them.
Observe the individual in action, provide feedback and coach them if necessary; these are your tools for implementing real change. If you create opportunities where you can work with the individual and provide constructive feedback, you can offer advice to improve their behaviour and show them alternative ways to approach a situation. Equally as important, make sure you provide positive feedback to the individual when it’s justified; this well help them see how situations can be handled with a positive approach moving forward.
If There’s No Progress, Go Further
Once you’ve implemented the above steps, you’ll have to assess whether the individual is making progress. Be honest with yourself; if the employee continues to disrupt the work environment, you must take further action. Keep your superiors informed of the entire process, as they need to understand how this employee’s negativity impacts the entire team and overall productivity. You may want to work with your HR specialist as well to develop and implement an escalation program which includes termination for lack of compliance.
How to handle a toxic manager:
Learn to Speak Their Language
Dealing with a difficult boss is not an ideal situation for an employee. But sometimes learning more about your boss – their likes, dislikes, goals and fears – can work in your favour. Observe your boss’s behaviours and preferences; if you speak to your boss’s core interests and match their style of communication, it can be a great way to get them to listen to what you have to say.
Focus on Their Strengths, Help with Their Weaknesses
You can help your boss by emphasizing what they’re already good at. A great way is to help them improve their own performance. If your manager lacks organization, offer to help him or her stay on top of their schedule. If showing up late to meetings is a problem for your boss, take the initiative to start the next one yourself. If you help your boss succeed, you’ll be seen as an asset, and the work you’ve put into making the company better will be appreciated.
Address Your Concerns Directly
Don’t be afraid to speak up, you owe it to yourself and your boss to be honest about how you feel. Although it may be easier to keep quiet or move on to the next opportunity, give your boss a chance to respond. If you approach them respectfully and with the intent of mending the relationship, you may be surprised to see it open a new level of trust and collaboration between you. And at the very least, you can tell yourself that you gave them the opportunity to change.
If All Else Fails, Prepare for Your Next Move
You’ve exhausted all your resources, and you’re content to move on to another company, so prepare yourself for this change. There’s nothing worse than escaping one toxic work environment and moving to an even worse one, so do your research: Meet your new co-workers for coffee and learn more about the work culture; ask questions about the team you may be joining and what sort of management practices are common. Whether you’re moving internally to another department or joining a new company entirely, it never hurts to be prepared.
Aileen Ormoc | Contributing Writer