Is Jussie Smollett the Ultimate Toxic Employee?

What happens when you have a toxic employee in your workplace? One, shall we say, challenging worker can wreak havoc on the entire team. They can sap morale, drain productivity, and sow chaos and disruption in their wake.

Jussie smollettTake Jussie Smollett, for example. Now, he’s an extreme example, and hopefully you don’t have employees allegedly faking hate crimes in their spare time, but his actions have not just affected him. They’ve had an impact on his colleagues as well.

Reports from TMZ (I know, not quite the Washington Post) state that co-star Terrence Howard “grilled Jussie periodically” over his account of the attack, with Terrence and other colleagues dubious about the validity of his story.

So what did management do? They yanked Jussie from the rest of the season, because his presence and his actions were too “disruptive” to the workplace.

Again, an extreme example, but when you have a toxic employee, you simply cannot adopt a wait-and-see attitude and hope the situation resolves itself.

Think about if you have a stinky office fridge. Would you recommend just waiting until the smell went away of its own volition? Would that ever happen? No, of course it wouldn’t, and you’d be considered crazy for suggesting that plan of (in)action.

Toxic employees are the same as a stinky fridStinky Fridgege. You have to deal with the situation and clean it up in order to see improvement.

There can be a few different reasons for the stinky fridge – I mean toxic employee. They may not realize their behavior is so disruptive and difficult for colleagues. They may be going through personal issues and acting out at work. They may just be a jerk. Whatever the reason, you need to address it.

If you’re a colleague, you need to notify management immediately. They should take this seriously and begin to look into the situation. I say should because many managers would rather undergo a root canal with no anesthetic than deal with a toxic employee directly.

So, managers, I’m talking to you. It is in your best interest to address this situation. You can start by gathering information, learning if others have a similar experience, and collect as much data as you can on the toxic employee’s behavior.

Manager talking to employeeAnd then, unfortunately, you’ll have to talk to them directly. Armed with evidence, it’s easier to point to your documentation and keep the conversation focused on the behavior. You’re not saying “Jon is a jerk”, but rather, “Jon, there have been complaints about some behavior.” You’re not attacking the person but discussing behavior which can be changed. Keep this focus front and center to help the conversation move forward.

Know what behavior you do want to see in its place. Jon keeps showing up late and making Tessa handle reporting? Specify that Jon needs to be in by 8:45 and you expect that he will personally finish up the paperwork needed.

Identify the goal that you want, and map out a plan to get there. You should also map out what happens if they don’t get there. What are the consequences for failure? Be specific.

Throughout your time line, check in with your toxic employee regularly to see how they’re getting along, what challenges they may be facing in achieving the goal, and how the process may be modified to help them succeed.

Many toxic employees are just employees stuck in a problem. Help them find their way out of the problem and the toxicity can dissipate. No workforce is perfect, and there will always be problems, but a strong leader can see the issues and help their workers through to success.

Want to be prepared when a toxic employee joins your department? C4CM has you covered. Our webinar on Taming Toxic Employees: How to Keep Negativity from Infecting Your Workplace  will help you develop skills to manage difficult employees, so sign up today!

-Tina Nacrelli

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