How to spot the toxic employee poisoning your spa workplace

Is there toxic employee poisoning your workplace? A toxic spa environment can be a problem, as we have discussed in the past. And it’s important to know what to do about it.

There can be several causes, including broken communication lines and an unhealthy overall environment. But sometimes, all that toxicity is coming from one person. It can be someone in a management or non management role, and it can sometimes be difficult to figure out who it is. Like some actual poisons, toxicity isn’t always detectable to the naked senses. But if you pay close attention, you may be able to spot the toxic employee.

This is important because a toxic worker can cost your company in employee turnover and in low morale, which can affect guest experience, among other things. A 2015 study by Dylan Minor at Harvard Business School defined a toxic worker as one that “engages in behavior that is harmful to an organization, including either its property or people.”

Don’t let a toxic employee poison your spa workplace. To spot them, look for:

A person who is very self regarding. Minor’s study found that people who are highly “self regarding,” as opposed to “other regarding,” are more likely to be toxic employees. A self regarding person does not “internalize the cost that their behavior imposes on others,” wrote Minor. “A way to capture one’s degree of other-regardingness is to identify how concerned one is about taking care of another’s needs.” This concern should impact the choices one makes, and someone who is more self regarding is, therefore, more likely to cause toxicity because they don’t care how their actions affects co-workers.

Someone who is overconfident. According to Minor’s paper, overconfidence is an inflated belief in one’s own abilities that can be linked to engaging in misconduct. Someone who is overconfident believes that the probability of the better outcome is higher than it actually is. It makes sense to also associate overconfidence with higher self regard and a propensity towards always being right. Confidence is good. Overconfidence can be toxic.

Someone who always insists on following the rules. This one is odd, but according to Minor, people who claim the rules should never be broken — as opposed to saying sometimes it’s necessary to break the rules to accomplish something — are significantly more likely to be terminated for breaking the rules. Minor suggests that this is a form of Machiavellianism of which we should be wary.

Heightened tensions and drama when one person is around compared with when they are not.  Moving away from Minor’s findings and into more general territory, if it feels like tensions tend to mount and fall on a regular basis, look around and see if there isn’t a common denominator. It could be just one person causing all that tension — if you can spot that person, you’re going to have to address it.

The last one standing. I once worked at a company with a manager whose entire team kept getting fired one after the other. Project after project tanked under this person’s leadership, and yet she remained at the company while her employees kept getting let go – she even got promoted. At no point did her superiors ever seem to think maybe the problem was her, though everyone else around could see it plain as day.

Someone who always has a problem. You know that one person who is never happy? Some of us might look for an explanation for this person’s constant complaints, assume that it’s our fault or someone else’s, or worry that they’re justified in some other way. But sometimes a person is just difficult and enjoys being unhappy – and that unhappiness will spread to the rest of your team.

A person who is always right. We all know that person who can never back down and admit to being wrong. In an employee and colleague, this behavior can be very hard to handle and can certainly poison an atmosphere. One who is never wrong lacks humility, as well as the openness to learning that makes a great team member. Keep an eye out for the person who is never wrong. They are bad for any environment.

Someone who seems to be at the top of the pecking order. You can’t always spot bullying but you might notice that a hierarchy has formed with a monarch at the top and subjects underneath who genuflect and vie for that person’s favour. This can seem benign on the surface but is an unhealthy peer structure that should be monitored. Nobody should be in charge but management, and even then nobody should be behaving like a queen bee.

Back to Minor’s research, the study found, interestingly, that toxic workers are actually very productive, which may explain why managers tend to keep them around. But they’re still not worth it, because they ruin the work environment and can turn non-toxic workers into toxic ones. You’ve heard of the bad apple spoiling the whole bunch.

Spotting the person presenting an issue is the first step towards fixing the situation.


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