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3 steps for dealing with a toxic influence in the workplace


As a manager, you can hope that - most of the time - your team is a relatively cohesive, engaged and productive group who together achieve a great many things. But what do you do when a toxic personality begins to poison that dynamic? How do you maintain the team when one person is actively or passively upsetting the day-to-day working environment for every member of the team?


1. Identify the toxic element


As a manager, it is not always simple to identify toxic behaviours that are disrupting your team. Very often, consistent toxic behaviours – for example, aggressiveness or narcissism – might be effectively disguised by the offender in front of their immediate manager. Meanwhile, other employees who are suffering directly from this behaviour may feel duty-bound to say nothing – perhaps through a concern about upsetting group dynamics or a fear of raising issues about their own performance. As a result, managers may well be aware of the results of the toxic influence – for example, falling productivity or a spate or resignations – but they need to be far more vigilant to identify the causes.


2. Understand where the toxicity comes from


One conclusion to be drawn from identifying a toxic element in your team is that there is arguably a failing in your approach to recruitment. This person may well have impressed at multiple interviews and presented sterling references, all the while disguising their less desirable traits. Alternatively, toxic behaviour may be a result of some wider issue within the organisation. This might be seen in a previously engaged and happy employee who has, over time, grown disillusioned with some element of their career with your organisation and, subsequently, has allowed this negativity to leech into other aspects of their work.


3. Consider the options for neutralising the toxicity


Before taking the terminal option of ridding an organisation of the toxic element, managers should consider whether the impact can be actively minimised by working with the employee in question. This could involve coaching sessions, behavioural assessments, and close and honest feedback on elements of the employee’s work. The earlier this form of intervention is attempted, the more likely that the toxic behaviours can be managed effectively.
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