“One bad apple spoils the barrel.”
You know the saying, “One bad apple spoils the barrel.” But is this true from a business and team perspective? The answer is yes. Behavioural research has confirmed that a single member of a team who has a toxic attitude, can influence the behaviour of other team members.
Imagine these Cape to Rio yacht races and 15 crew members who are collectively accountable for the success of the voyage. When you’re 500 sea miles into your journey on the Atlantic Ocean and a crew member becomes toxic, their behaviour is not just a risk to themselves, but to those next to them and eventually it places the voyage at risk.
I believe there are three types of employees in any business and one can compare them to the colours of a traffic light. Your green employees are your brand ambassadors; they are cognitively and emotionally connected to the brand and will authentically represent it wherever they go. Orange employees we call “corridor terrorists”, classical fence sitters, not yet fully engaged and aligned, but the good news is that they can be converted. The red ones we call “psychic vampires”, they ‘drip with blood’ and will arrogantly tell you that they do not like the company and actually do not want to be there. In the 27 years that I’ve practiced in HR I have not yet found the recipe that assists in permanently converting a red employee to green; some inter-ventions will lead to interim improve-ments in behaviour, but eventually an employee that is inherently toxic, will migrate back to their old behavioural patterns.
So, what should the Manager do? Two specific actions are key:
1.) Never appoint a toxic employee. There are sufficient psychometric assessment solutions available to test for attitude and values alignment and thereby proactively manage your talent risk and;
2.) If the employee is already in employment, get rid of them. And even in South Africa this is not as complex or cumbersome a task as it seems.
Our labour law may include extensive employment protection measures for employees, but it as much provides employers with the opportunity to weed out toxic employees; a fair process and a substantively fair reason, coupled with consistent action from the employer, is key therein.
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