Have you ever worked somewhere that you just knew was a toxic environment? Or worked with someone who you thought was toxic?
Maybe you just didn’t get on with that workplace or colleague.
Thinking back, could you pinpoint what made it or them toxic?
The majority of people will have a story or two about when they’ve worked in such an environment, or maybe worked with somebody who just made their job unbearable. Some people may even tell you they left a job to get away from a toxic manager!
Before we start, there are two different definitions I would like to share with you:
In this article, I’ll help you to understand the different types of toxicity and give you some actionable steps which you can use straight away and some guidance on what to do long term to heal the toxic environment.
Handling These Types of Behaviour in Contact Centres
Contact centres can be amazing places to work, they can be empowering and rewarding for people who have the right mindset. When you put toxic employees in the mix, they can destroy the harmony of a well-run contact centre and create a toxic environment.
So, while you are reading this, are you thinking you might know somebody who is toxic? They could be the nicest person in the world, but when they are at work you describe them as ‘a nightmare’.
The first step is to recognize what behaviours are creating the toxicity. When you understand that, you can put steps in place to counteract them and heal the environment.
Recognizing a Toxic Employee
There are several types of toxic employee. In this article I’ll focus on six:
1. The Moaner
You know the type. This is the person who complains about everything.
It doesn’t matter what it is, they will find a fault with it, and they will tell others about all the shortcomings of the idea.
I have seen this before when a company brought in free fruit. The majority of people thought this was great.
The ‘moaners’ complained about the lack of selection.
2. The Confidence Destroyer
This person sits at the back of the meeting room and just smirks at you. It can completely throw you off your game. Or they make small comments which undermine your confidence.
They may show passive aggressive behaviour.
I’ve had these types of people in my training room many times over the years.
Outside the training room, we would be friends, but I would dread seeing their names on my roster for classroom training.
3. The Glory Seeker
This person seeks approval from the managers, and they don’t care how they get it, whose toes they step on or whose ideas they steal.
This person may know exactly what they are doing, they also may see no problem with it.
I’ve seen this happen before, where ideas have been discussed over the water cooler by a group of people.
Then suddenly a few weeks later you’ll see the idea being put into practice and one person taking the credit.
4. The Wheelbarrow
This person only works when they are pushed.
They never show initiative, and only want to do the job they are paid for.
In contact centres you generally have two types of people, those who want to progress and those who don’t care, they just arrive, do their job, and then go home.
5. The Spy
This person watches and then reports back.
You may have worked with someone like this before, the person everyone knows not to tell anything important to.
They may be seeking approval from the managers, and think if they report what they see it will reflect well on them.
6. The Micromanager
What are you doing? Why are you on wrap? Why are your calls longer than anyone else’s? How long will it take you to do this task? Why hasn’t it been done yet?
Nobody likes to work for a micromanager, to such an extent that it can make employees look for work elsewhere in another team or company.
A survey by GoodHire, which looked at 3,000 full-time workers in the USA across different industries, found that 82% of workers might quit their job because of a bad manager.
How Managers Can Deal With Toxic Employees
No workplace is toxic, the environment is a reflection of the people who work within it.
You may recognize the signs that you have a toxic employee, or another member of staff may raise it with you. It doesn’t matter how you discover them, you need to act!
The first step in healing an employee is to talk to them. They may not realize this is how they come across, and awareness is the first step to change.
Make sure you ask lots of questions, open and probing, so you can really get to the bottom of their behaviour, as there might be an underlying cause which is affecting how they behave. They may be masking a lack of confidence by picking out faults in others, for instance.
You can run through different scenarios, explaining how you would handle the situation compared to how they handled it. Make them aware of the effect they have on people and the environment.
The first step in healing a toxic employee is to talk to them. They may not realize this is how they come across, and awareness is the first step to change.
The most important aspect of healing toxic employees is to ensure there is a clear line of communication. They need to know that they can be heard, be honest and that you empathize with them. If not, their behaviour could become worse, which could lead to complaints and disciplinary action.
What Can You Do if Your Manager Is Toxic?
As we’ve seen before, talking to them can be the first step in their self-realization of how their actions affect people.
If talking to them doesn’t work, you could consider speaking to Human Resources (HR) or their manager, depending on the set-up of your company. It may be they need some coaching on how to handle certain situations or conversations.
Nobody wants to work in a toxic environment, with a toxic colleague or manager. Recognizing the signs early will help you manage the situation. Ideally, you want to heal the environment and retain the employee, because it’s much better and cheaper to keep somebody than replace them.
And if you recognize some of these traits in yourself, you’ve taken the first step to change.
Just remember, in healing the toxic employee you will heal the workplace, even if that toxic employee is you.
Thanks to Kim Ellis TAP.dip, Training Consultant, LN Board Director & Chief Learning Architect at GO GINGER learning solutions.
To discover more great insights on handling contact centre agents and identifying issues, read these articles next: