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|Friday, March 18, 2011|
By Tom Cox
Toxic incivility in the workplace is costing money, driving away the best employees — it’s even killing people.
Don’t believe it? A recent study by VitalSmarts and the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN) found examples like these:
The same things happens in the non-medical field — maybe in your workplace. Instead of killing people, maybe it’s just killing your profits and driving away your best workers and customers.
What’s a toxic employee, really? They show toxic behaviors, according to Mitch Kusy and Elizabeth Holloway, authors of Toxic Workplace — one or more of these three behaviors, each of which is horribly corrosive of teamwork and productivity:
How bad is the problem?
According to Kusy and Holloway, a stunning 94% of leaders report having worked with a toxic person. The impact on organizational performance is profoundly bad.
Alan Rosenstein’s 10 years of research has shown that 60 percent of medication errors are due to toxic or bad behavior. The most common problem is that others are afraid to speak up, and don’t. Because a doctor or a lead nurse is overly abrasive, and thus intimidating the other workers, so nobody is willing to question when a medication order might contain a mistake — so the mistakes don’t get caught.
30.7% of nurses leave their jobs due to toxic behaviors they experience, at a cost of 1.5 to 2.5 times salary.
How do they get away with it?
Entrenched toxic people build “systems of power” to protect themselves. They “Kiss Up and Kick Down” — a chameleon-like ability to fool bosses and mislead the people who would normally find them and fix them, while terrorizing their subordinates.
And co-workers enable toxic behavior by creating workarounds:
How to Find Toxic Workers
If you’re the subordinate — get two or three others and go as a group to your toxic boss’ boss. Document the problems first (here’s how). Or forward to your boss’ boss the link to this article.
If you’re the boss — look for the warning signs:
If you’ve got even one of these symptoms, investigate. Two? You’ve got toxicity.
How to Fix Toxic Workers
Amazingly, 99% of toxic people can be saved. (Here’s how Google is fixing their worst managers.) You just need to start — by being serious about the problem — and using some simple tools.
Tool: Skip-Level Evaluation
Both on a schedule and in response to specific concerns. If you have the authority, institute this practice for all managers. If you don’t, just start doing it yourself for the managers who report to you.
Tool: In-House or Outside Coaching
Put your toxic person on a 6-month performance plan with a good executive coach. Make it clear their future depends on it — and stick to the deadline if they don’t improve. Most will improve… once they believe you’re serious.
Your best people will thank you. (Listen to my podcast with Kusy and Holloway here.)
Contributing blogger Thomas B. Cox runs Cox Business Consulting, Inc. and is creator of the blog and web radio show Tom on Leadership, aimed at CEOs and business owners. He has worked with IBM, Oracle, Tektronix, ODOT, Intel and others.
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