Cool Tips to Deal with the Hot Mess Employee

BY Kathy Crosett
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You’ve worked hard to build your department with the goal of succeeding – whether it’s to bring in more sales or build more widgets. The success of your department is only as good as the people you’ve hired. Every now and then a toxic employee slips into the ranks. Maybe this employee fooled you during  the interview process or maybe he was assigned to your department by a higher up. Either way, you’ve got a disruptive situation on your hands. Shawn Murphy’s Switch and Shift playbook tells you how to deal with 5 different kinds of toxic employees.

As a manager, it might take you a while to recognize you’ve got a problem. After all, who wants to admit they’ve brought in a team member who’s ruining morale? Once you realize you’ve got a problem, you need to fix it — fast. Here’s how to identify what’s wrong and how to take care of the situation before you find yourself entangled in a legal nightmare.

The Hot Mess

We all like to pitch in and help a new employee learn how to do his job. After a certain period, team members need to step back and return to their own tasks. The Hot Mess often can’t handle this. He’ll continue to ask for help to meet deadlines. He’ll ask others to fix his mistakes. His continued disorganization will cause the rest of the team to miss deadlines. Murphy recommends first offering extra training for this type of employee. Next, you’ll want to put him on an improvement plan and check in frequently. If his work habits and outputs don’t improve, it may then be time to suggest that he check in with a medical professional to determine whether he's suffering from an attention-​related disorder that can be managed with behavioral changes or medication.

The Sociopath

Some employees don’t have any trouble doing their jobs. But they just can’t seem to fit into a typical social environment, and they can wreak havoc on a workplace. Murphy notes that up to 4% of the  U.S. population has a personality that fits into this category. Sociopaths tend to perceive any social situation as a contest they must win.

Analysts point out that sociopaths, especially narcissistic sociopaths, are not born. They are shaped as a result of their unfortunate personal experiences early in life. Whatever the root cause, these employees will use all of their skills to achieve their goals.  In the workplace, they’ll stir up interpersonal problems. They’ll bully your team members and try to manipulate you by telling you what you want to hear.

If you’re easily flattered, it may take you a while to figure out what’s happening. But, if you hear repeated comments and concerns from a number of your team members, it’s time to listen. You’ll need to put anti-​bullying policies in place. You’ll also want to track and document negative behavior exhibited by the sociopath. And, you need to ensure a safe workplace. If you can’t get the sociopath to conform, you’ll need a build a case to show him the door.

Read about the other types of toxic employees highlighted by Murphy and promise yourself you’ll take action, for the sake of your organization and your team.