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Become Immune to Toxic Employees

Toxic employees cost you a fortune. A recent Gallup survey found that about one in five employees actually sets out to undermine the enterprise where they work.

They’re not just “disengaged.” They’re not just “disgruntled.”

They’re a threat to your well-being. In the United States alone, they cost businesses over half a trillion dollars a year. 

And they do it in small increments. A Harvard Business School study found that one of them costs the average company $12,489 at the time they’re fired.

To put that in perspective, if you have a 7% profit margin, you will need to generate $178,414 in new revenue just to break even from one toxic employee.

And that person can cost you lot a lot more than money -- especially if you kept them on board longer than you should have.

Thankfully, there’s an easy way to eliminate this risk from your business.

Bully Psychology

There’s a lot of similarities between toxic employees and bullies. 

According to a study done by the University of California at Los Angeles, bullies have manically high self-esteem. This affects everyone around them. Their peers and even their teachers think they’re cool.

Imagine the social dynamic: the coolest guy in your company is trying to figure out how to undermine your business. His incredibly high level of self-esteem carries others along with him.

That’s how their negativity can impact your whole organization. They make being disengaged “cool.” So one toxic employee can take down other employees, and compound the cost to your business.

Becoming Immune

Fortunately, the opposite is also true.

A study by Wharton found that employees who felt that they worked in a “caring culture” had higher levels of satisfaction. And higher levels of teamwork. And higher levels of attendance.

Oh, and a higher quality of life.

What’s the business outcome of a “caring culture?”

Your clients feel it too.

Emotions are contagious. If you meet someone who is happy -- that is, someone enjoying satisfying work, the pleasure of being on a team, and a higher quality of life -- the probability you will feel happier skyrockets.

So when your customer encounters a happy employee, they feel happier themselves.

How will that impact your customer relations? How will it affect sales?

This is where leadership enters the equation.

Because, according to a study reported in HBR, if you’re happy, then your managers are happier. And if your managers are happy, then your customers get the full impact of the culture that you’ve created.

The HBR study found that if executives show “integrity” and have a “results focus,” they will start a cascading effect that improves the mindset of the managers under them. This positive effect reverberates throughout the orgainzation -- and affects the employees who interface with your customers.

According to the American Psychological Association, establishing a “policy of respect” can eliminate the perception of favoritism, and removes the feeling that “upper management isn’t hearing” the concerns of front-line employees.

Bully Detox for Great Leaders

You can learn techniques to cause this effect -- even when you’re having a bad day.

First step, according to another study published by HBR is to “maintain a good productivity system” and “have a consistent environment.” 

These things allow you to maintain a stable routine, which can serve you the same way a keel serves a sailing ship. Most importantly, they conclude, it allows you to establish habits of mind that serve you even when circumstances beyond your control try to capsize you.

And there’s one more critical element you need to make your company immune to toxic employees.

Psychology Today explains that our bodies actually drive our emotions, rather than the other way around. You don’t experience sadness and then start crying; you start crying, and then wonder why. You don’t experience happiness and then smile; you smile, and wonder why.

If you’ve ever watched the television show Lie to Me,  you’re familiar with the concept of just how connected facial expressions can be to the “truth” of what you’re feeling. You don’t need to worry about this. Instead, you can use it.

Even when you’re having a bad day, smile. It matters more than you can measure. Smiling at one of your people matters far more than whatever might be troubling you at the moment.

With your smile, you improve the lives of the people who work for you. You take care of your business. And you just might turn that toxic employee into someone who wants to contribute.