• 15th May 2007 - By proteman

    Yesterday I wrote a post about Toxic People. My premise was that some people are just miserable and spread negativity to everyone who comes in contact with them. Keith Harrell calls this, “toxic negativity.”

    Interestingly, today’s CareerBuilder online newsletter has an article about the hidden costs of keeping a “bad” employee. Here’s a taste:

    “A bad employee can be like cancer within a company. Strong negativism, a poor attitude, backbiting, and incompetence can spread quickly within any organization. Co-workers of a bad employee notice the issues and
    typically try to fight off catching the negative traits. However, such traits are contagious and can severely hurt or even kill a company. A bad employee will eventually affect your employees, customers, and product/service’s quality.”

    This is exactly what I meant in my earlier post about toxic (cancerous) people.

    What I like about the CareerBuilder post is takes a different perspective on the cause of toxic people’s negativity. It points out that negativity can be caused by the workplace – specifically, a bad fit with the job. Can a perfectly happy, good person become toxic in a bad work environment, or in a job that isn’t right for them? Absolutely.

    Think about waking up every morning for work, with your stomach turning, knowing you’ve got to spend the next eight or nine hours in a place you hate. Perhaps you have an hour commute each way…two hours to stew in traffic and think about work that you despise. Or perhaps you’re in the wrong job all together. You’re in over your head, and you know it. Your performance isn’t good, your boss knows it and so do your coworkers. You struggle to get through every work day. Could this make a normally happy person toxic and negative? You bet.

    So maybe we should have empathy for negative people. Maybe they’re not “bad” people after all. The trick (particulary in the workplace) is…empathize without letting them drag you and others down.

    © 2007. Phyllis Roteman, The Loyalty Group. All Rights Reserved.

  • 3 Comments to “The Toxic Employee…Another Perspective”

    • Anonymous on May 15, 2007

      Have you considered that in some cases, the toxic employee, is not the one that is toxic; rather he may be an excellent employee that was made to look that way by an unscrupulous manager and an unscrulous H.R. manager who abuse there authority and dodge the companys ethics policy?

    • Phyllis Roteman on May 15, 2007


      I think I get the point of your question. There are definitely toxic bosses (they’re people too).

      I don’t agree that anyone can be “made” negative or toxic by someone else. Attitude and behavior is a choice. If you have a bad manager and you’re not happy, you can leave. Happiness is a choice.

      If the employee is so excellent, why does he/she either:

      - Choose to go somewhere else where he/she is appreciated? (Shouldn’t an excellent employee be able to get lots of good jobs?)

      - Choose to raise above the alleged abuse and be happy with doing a good job?

    • Phyllis Roteman on May 15, 2007

      One point of clarification…no one should ever accept actual abuse from an employer (meaning sexual harassment, asking employees to break laws, etc.). That should always be addressed.

      Read my previous post on Toxic Employees…about “Victims”. If you say “a manager is MAKING me a bad employee or MAKING me toxic” – you’re playing the victim. That’s not a pleasant role for anyone…it’s not healthy and not productive.

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