Does Your Super-Engaged Employee Have the Potential to Become Toxic?

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Do you have a super-engaged sales rep on your staff? You might start out this pro­fes­sion­al rela­tion­ship in dis­be­lief. How could you have been lucky enough to score a ded­i­cat­ed and devot­ed employ­ee? As you are ask­ing this, remem­ber that in some work cul­tures, cer­tain high­ly engaged employ­ees can quick­ly become tox­ic.

We all know high­ly engaged employ­ees impact the bot­tom line in a pos­i­tive way. They stay late, they work hard, and as Ali­na Dizik points out in her recent WSJ col­umn, these team mem­bers are “more like­ly to see their job as a call­ing.”

How Toxicity Develops

It’s in that ‘call­ing’ mind­set that super-engaged employ­ees can become prob­lem­at­ic. If you have a high­ly engaged man­ag­er in your orga­ni­za­tion, they could take a project off the rails. With their added orga­ni­za­tion­al author­i­ty, man­agers might decide that “the rules don’t apply” to them, says Dr. Glavas, a pro­fes­sor at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ver­mont. In these sit­u­a­tions, employ­ees could begin to exhib­it tox­ic behav­ior.

At any lev­el, a high­ly engaged employ­ee can also be tempt­ed to “cut cor­ners.” When they begin to com­pete and want to win at all costs, they’ll keep infor­ma­tion to them­selves and cease to func­tion effec­tive­ly as a team mem­ber. In one sales orga­ni­za­tion, reports Dizik, researchers tracked super engage­ment to neg­a­tive out­comes.

Glavas’ research finds that man­ag­er attempts to build cohe­sion by focus­ing on a mis­sion such as cor­po­rate social respon­si­bil­i­ty can back­fire. Super-engagers may get super com­pet­i­tive about these ini­tia­tives.

How to Manage Toxic Employees

To gen­er­ate more bal­ance on the team, experts advise man­agers to ‘back off.’ Man­agers should also work hard­er with work­ers who don’t show enough engage­ment. In addi­tion, you may want to screen for tox­ic behav­ioral ten­den­cies when you are con­sid­er­ing hir­ing or pro­mot­ing a team mem­ber. The Can­di­date Pro­fil­ing tool in Sales­Fu­el COACH allows for this kind of assess­ment

Kathy Crosett
Kathy is the Vice Pres­i­dent of Research for Sales­Fu­el. She holds a Mas­ters in Busi­ness Admin­is­tra­tion from the Uni­ver­si­ty of Ver­mont and over­sees a staff of researchers, writ­ers and con­tent providers for Sales­Fu­el. Pre­vi­ous­ly, she was co-own­er of sev­er­al small busi­ness­es in the health care ser­vices sec­tor.