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

BY Kathy Crosett
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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