Are You A Toxic Employee?

Robin Schwartz

Are You A Toxic Employee?

We have all had jobs we hated or companies we despised working for. Most of us have been able to get out of bed and drag ourselves into the office to get our work done. But once you’re there, are you going through the motions with your head down or making things more difficult for yourself and your employer?

A toxic worker is someone who purposely engages in behaviors that are disruptive or harmful to people or property. These people are labeled “toxic” because that degree of purposeful negativity often spills over into the people and environment you’re surrounded by. Showing signs you dislike your job is far different than showing signs of a toxic worker.

You Complain

It’s not uncommon to have complaints about work. Even those who enjoy what they do might find themselves bending the ear of a friend of loved one to get things off their chest. There’s a right and wrong way to voice complaints when in the workplace.

If you receive an unexpected assignment and immediately complain, it will be noticed. You may not realize it but you’re being branded as someone with a poor work ethic for complaining about unexpected work.

If you’re able to find a reason to complain about almost anything to anyone who will listen, you’re crossing the line. A toxic employee will complain about being given projects that are within the scope of their job or they’ll complain about a supervisor or colleague loudly. If you realize you don’t care who hears you complain, you’re spreading negativity all around you.

You Gossip

Gossiping about colleagues isn’t a behavior that belongs in the workplace. Even if you have a close friend or confidant at work, gossip still gets around. If you’re spending your time putting down others or focusing on the negative, you’ll develop a reputation that’s much the same.

Office gossips are easily identifiable and it doesn’t take long for your colleagues to decide they can’t trust you and don’t want to develop much of a relationship with you.

Depending on your role within a company, gossiping could cost you your job. Those with confidential finance roles or roles in HR can’t afford to be viewed as gossips.

You’re Less Productive Than Your Colleagues

Everyone’s 8 hours aren’t always equal. If you’re regularly doing the bare minimum to keep your job, you’re not making yourself into a valued employee. If you’re looking at a “to-do” list or a series of emails that need responses but you’re deciding to play on Facebook instead, you’re doing everyone around you a disservice.

Employees who do just enough to get by rarely acknowledge that the work they don’t get to or refuse to do is falling on someone else’s shoulders. Your team members will likely become aggravated with you for doing half of what they do.

No One Enjoys Working With You

A truly toxic employee will not realize that people honestly don’t want to work with them. While they may not hear these comments directly, the HR leader or their supervisor most likely will. It’s not uncommon for leadership to hear feedback that teams would prefer to work with someone more skilled or capable.

Work teams are rarely complaining about someone who works hard but is very opinionated or someone who demands a lot of themselves and others. These people might have trickier personalities to handle but they get the work done. If you start finding out that co-workers or clients don’t want to work with you, your toxicity has reached a serious level.

You Don’t Respect the Rules

Are you regularly late to work and provide no reasoning to your boss? Do you take longer lunches without asking? Do you leave early if you feel like it but don’t have permission?

Workplace rules and regulations are in place for a reason. Their purpose is to create balance, equity, and structure within a work enouncement. If you don’t care about the rules or decide you’re above them, you’re spreading that idea to others. One of two things is likely to happen:

  1. Your co-workers will become frustrated with you and view you as lazy or rude.
  2. If you’re ignoring policies that are in place and no one is holding you accountable, your co-workers may feel as if you receive special treatment and resent you.

Either way, it’s not going to get you far with your professional relationships in the office.

You Make A Lot of Excuses

If you fail to meet a deadline, do you take ownership of it or it is someone/something else’s fault? A toxic employee will have a canned excuse at the ready for nearly every situation. Whether it’s because they dislike receiving critiques or because they fear failure, employees who provide a lengthy excuse for everything become a drain to work with.

Co-workers and supervisors notice when your excuses for why you can’t do something outnumber the times you get things done.

Toxic employees quickly become a drain on office morale and affect the quality of work a company produces. No one employee is perfect but exhibiting the signs of a toxic worker is a sure way to put your career in jeopardy. Take stock in your office behaviors and make sure you’re setting yourself up for success.

About The Author

Robin Schwartz

Robin Schwartz has nearly a decade of experience providing HR expertise to employees and management in higher education. Her broad experience includes benefits, compensation, performance management, employee relations, payroll, talent acquisition and management. She received her masters degree from American Military University and maintains a PHR certification.

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