Toxic employee undermining boss? How to stop workplace rumors

Toxic employees undermining boss? This destructive behavior can create a hostile work environment, lower morale, and decrease productivity. Recognizing the signs early and implementing proactive strategies can help mitigate the damage and restore a healthy workplace culture. Let’s look at some issues that arise when in this situation.

Marta feels decently confident as she enters the staff meeting. Her outpatient clinic is switching to an upgraded patient registration system. Like other managers at the facility, she needs to explain the new way of doing things to her direct reports. She jotted an outline of what to cover at the end of the day yesterday and hopes this answers most questions.

But Marta gets sidetracked from the start. She barely gets five sentences out of her mouth before always-negative Gina interrupts. “Why do we need a new system? I already have too much to do. Whose dumb idea was this to waste my time?”

Marta calmly responded that the new system would save the whole team time after the training. Marta asks Gina to let her explain everything and hold questions until the end. Gina refuses to wait. Instead, she goes on and on about how purchasing this tech probably was why she and her coworkers got a smaller raise this year. Some in the room start nodding and chiming in. Others look like they want to hide under the table.

Dangers of toxic employees undermining the boss

For instance, Gina is an example of a toxic person – someone whose lousy behavior negatively impacts others and the work environment. The words and actions of such difficult employees permeate and harm company culture, productivity, and team morale. In essence, the problem goes beyond the unpleasant individual; it spreads in a pervasive way, affecting the entire team and workplace environment.

Sometimes, an employee’s toxic behavior undermines the boss. A leader who fails to deal with such a situation quickly and effectively runs a variety of risks. Staff members may view the manager as ineffective or wimpy. They may feel free to engage in harmful behavior without fear of consequences. Consequently, new initiatives and promising ideas may never get a fair shake because of the toxic person “poisoning” the entire team.

Toxic workplaces are a significant cause of good employees seeking new jobs. Tired of drama and negative attitudes, they leave for their well-being and mental health. And, if word of the toxic work environment gets out on LinkedIn and other social media outlets, recruitment can suffer. Good luck filling roles after ex-employees post big red flags about toxic coworkers.

Ways toxic employees undermine the boss

Workers sometimes have a bad day. Others go through a rough patch now and then. Some display a negative attitude on occasion. The frequency and scope of the employee’s behavior make a toxic worker different. The negative impact is spread freely and without remorse. In fact, the offender may even seem to relish, or even enjoy, stirring the pot.

Toxic actions appear in various forms, ranging from passive-aggressive to in-your-face noticeable. The following lists some common examples and their negative impact on a manager:

  • Spreading rumors

Distributing untruths about a supervisor can cause embarrassment and damage the person’s reputation. Also, gossip regarding work-related issues can instigate panic. A leader then needs to waste time calming things down.

  • Self-centeredness

A toxic person who hogs credit and fails to give others their due harms a supervisor’s efforts to create a sense of teamwork.

  • Insubordination

Refusing to do what a manager asks of you disrupts the chain of command necessary to accomplish things.

  • Procrastination

Failing to do one’s part promptly leads to edgy coworkers and concerns about making deadlines.

  • “Mistakes”

The report “accidentally” contains the wrong data. She “forgot” to tell you an important client called. You “inadvertently” did not get copied on that email. He knew valuable customer preferences information but “didn’t bother” to pass it on. Now, you look bad and have to scramble to right the ship.

  • Aggressiveness

Loudness, foul language, interruptions, belittlement, and other “take over the room” behaviors make team members uncomfortable. This harms a leader’s efforts to create a psychologically safe environment where all feel free to contribute. Innovation and effective problem-solving suffer.

  • Negative attitude

Persistent complaints and pessimism kill morale. Nobody wants to partner with Debbie Downer, which causes a dilemma when a manager needs to make assignments.

How managers can deal with a toxic employee

As should be abundantly clear by now, a manager cannot afford to avoid a toxic worker or look the other way simply. The team’s well-being, as well as your own, demands action.

Call the offender for a private conversation when you notice a pattern of toxic behavior or experience a particularly harmful incident, such as how Gina behaved toward Marta. Bring the matter to the person’s attention. Stay calm and factual. (“Loudly and repeatedly interrupting me during the staff meeting to express discontent about the new system disrupted my train of thought.

It also led team members to withdraw in discomfort rather than enabling a productive, professional conversation.”) Avoid assuming intent, such as “You purposely wanted to embarrass me.” Let the actions speak for themselves. Concrete evidence is more complex to deny or dispute.

Since toxic individuals often focus so much on themselves, they may not realize the extent of their behavior. The possibility exists that your conversation leads to a change in ways. However, often, more than just addressing the subject is needed.

Address Unprofessional Behavior and Establish Consequences,

Convey that workers are welcome to express opinions respectfully at an appropriate time. State firmly that you will not tolerate unprofessional conduct. Set clear expectations that if such bad behavior continues, disciplinary actions will be initiated by the company’s policies. Above all, document this conversation and any others on the issue.

Many organizations employ a progressive disciplinary system. The employee handbook lays out unacceptable actions and the consequences at each stage. Typically, the first step is a verbal warning. Written warnings and bringing human resources into the mix often follow. These actions can generate a greater sense of seriousness.

With the help of an HR professional, some managers create a PIP (Performance Improvement Plan). This formal document presents a route for improvement, preferably with clear objectives and measurable metrics. It also sets a timeline for meeting these goals and getting together again to discuss success or lack of it.

Failure to change can lead to probation or suspension. Ultimately, the company may have little choice but to terminate. Removing the toxic individual can be the only way to restore a positive work culture.

Preventative measures

Handling a toxic employee who undermines your authority does more than deal with the situation. It sends a message to other staff members that insubordinate or insolent behavior has no place in your organization. Action now can result in fewer cases down the line.

The ideal, of course, would be a toxic person learning not to act disrespectfully. Keeping others on staff from witnessing poor behavior reduces their chances of joining the negative chorus.

Talking to a known toxic staff member before an event sometimes helps. For instance, Marta from the opening could have spoken to Gina before the staff meeting. She could tell Gina that an important issue will be presented today, and she respects that questions might arise. However, Marta could insist that Gina extend the courtesy of hearing the entire presentation without comment before the floor becomes open for comments at the end.

Enhance emotional intelligence to combat toxic behavior

In addition to open communication, another tactic to consider is boosting training on emotional intelligence. Developing awareness of one’s feelings and those of others can help with conduct and empathy. Toxic employees may gain a greater understanding of how their actions affect others. Non-toxic workers may pick up skills that help them diffuse conflicts and maintain positivity.

Do you have a toxic staff member who relishes inciting panic or spreading rumors? Transparency on your part can assist in squashing misinformation. As a result, when leadership values honest and frequent communication, employees feel less of a need to fill in gaps themselves or believe gossipers. Provide an open door where people feel free to share concerns or “get the low down” on what is being speculated around the office.

Finally, managers should work to earn a good reputation among their staff. Furthermore, leaders who build positive relationships and gain respect through qualities such as fairness encourage loyalty. Consequently, a toxic coworker’s complaints about leadership are more likely to fall on deaf ears.