Toxic. Have you heard someone use this word lately? Or maybe you’ve used it yourself a couple of times? It’s a nasty little word, especially when used to describe your workplace.
Sometimes people use it to describe their ever increasing workload. Often though, it hides the fact that it’s not the work that’s toxic; it’s the people. One manager, Tony, had one such employee in his team.

Tony’s Toxic Employee

Tony is a sales manager in a fast growing company, heading one of its highest performing teams. That all changed once they hired James. When James started, he was just as good as anyone in the team. He closed deals regularly, came to work on time and even finished his paperwork on schedule. He even brought in donuts once in a while!
But once the workload increased, he become more irritable and uncooperative. His sales started dropping significantly and he started coming in late a bit too often. The worse part was his performance affected the rest of the team. The others had to take on extra work to hit the team’s sales targets. This made the office a toxic place to work in.
And here’s the kicker: the company’s year-end report is due in a month. The way things are going, Tony and his team won’t be able to hit their annual numbers if he doesn’t act soon. If you were in Tony’s shoes, what would you do?

The Cost of Unprofessional Behavior

We’ve all heard the old saying: “One bad apple can spoil the bunch.”
When someone displays bad behavior, it creeps into the entire team. One study revealed that one bad employee can bring down the effectiveness of a team by 30% to 40%!

But what counts as unprofessional conduct? Here are some examples:
• Flying off the handle
• Making excuses and blaming others
• Rude behavior towards peers and leaders
• Not keeping promises
• Engaging in office politics
• Lying and stealing
• Bullying, intimidation and making threats
• Persistent lateness
• Uncooperative behavior and laziness
• Excessive criticism
• Having too thin of a skin

Surely you don’t want to be around someone that exhibits even one of these things, right? On top of its bad effects to your team, unprofessional people are also frustrating and hard to manage.

How to Handle Unprofessional Behavior

The good news is that there’s a few steps you can take to address this bad conduct:

1. Record all unprofessional conduct.

Take note of his actions, including the dates and details of those actions. Read the company’s employee handbook and identify what parts he might have violated. This gives you a baseline of how many times the employee showed bad behaviors.

2. Review the observed behavior with the employee.

Gather all the necessary documents as basis and review it directly with the employee. Understanding the why and how of what happened is your priority.
When talking to the employee, use the “Sandwich Method.” This method suggests that you start by giving a real compliment to the employee. Show him how he’s helped the team and the company so far. After that, you can start talking about your observations. Then, finish the conversation with an encouraging remark.
As leaders, we should always believe that people can change for the better. Listen to what the employee has to say. Allow them to offer a defense. Doing so will show that your own professionalism.

3. Resolve the issue by coming up with a decision.

After your talk, come up with what you need to do about the situation. Don’t forget to back it up with facts and policies, such as the employee handbook.\
Then, discuss the possible consequences with the employee. It’s almost always a good idea to avoid dismissal if the conduct isn’t severe. Suspension or probation may fit better. Or give a warning if it’s the first time he’s been reported for this behavior.

4. Reassess the progress of the employee.

Meet with the employee often to reassess their progress. This helps the employee realize the consequences of his actions. In your part, you’ll be able to closely track if that person is improving and take steps if he isn’t. The key here is having genuine care for the employee.

Fixing James’ Bad Behavior

Going back to the story, Tony decides to act on the situation quickly. He notes the time when James started his absenteeism and change in behavior. Tony then talked to James one-on-one and reviewed the company policies with him. Since James performed well in the past, Tony decided to give him another chance.
James admitted that he felt too much pressure on the job. So Tony gave him a few productivity tips as well as how he can relieve his stress. By keeping an eye on James’ performance, Tony was able to get James back to his peak performance.
James started to understand that he’s not alone and that his actions affect the entire team. He also got a lot of help from his team and thanked them for putting up with his bad conduct.

Fixing Unprofessional Behavior to Improve Team Performance

Handling unprofessional conduct of employees can be a challenge. But as a leader, you need to make sure that your team gets enough support so they can perform at their best.

When you address the issue, it’s important to:
1) remind yourself that it is your responsibility to act on the situation and decide on the outcome, and
2) undergo a proper process to avoid conflict, especially legal ones.

How you handle these kinds of problems will show your character as a leader. You need to model the right behavior yourself by showing that you are respectful, professional, and supportive. In the long run, they will do what you do.

So, how did Tony’s team do at year-end? You’ll be glad to know they were successful in hitting their annual numbers a week before the end of the year. Everyone went out for drinks and the best part was James started bringing in donuts again!

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