Five Warning Signs of a Toxic Team Member

WeddingIQ Blog - Five Warning Signs of A Toxic Team Member

On the theme of hiring and firing, I’ve been thinking about warning signs that someone might be a bad fit for your business (or a nightmare to manage down the road!).

Of course we all have 20/20 hindsight, but here are five warning signs someone may wind up being toxic to your team:

1. Their lives are full of drama.  Obviously, shit happens.  We all have our share of problems that pop up now and again; that’s just life.  However, I have a theory that some people just manifest drama, and magnify life’s little inconveniences to become all-encompassing crises.  Often, it starts out with little things and you’ll be inclined to let them slide — after all, who could be mad at someone for getting into a fender-bender on the way to work, or for locking their keys in the car at the gas station?  Almost inevitably, though, the issues will snowball, until they’re repeatedly forgetting to set their alarm in the morning, they’re forgetting to fill their gas tank until they’re already running late to work, their bill collectors are calling the office, their arguments with their significant other are trickling into their work time…the list goes on and on.  And again, inevitably, you’ll be kicking yourself because you’ll realize there were warning signs from the very beginning.

2. They broadcast everything.  In today’s world, it’s pretty common for people to be extremely public about their lives on Facebook and Twitter.  They tweet pictures of their lunch, wax poetic on Facebook about the content of their “crazy dream last night,” and check in on Foursquare everywhere they go — because heaven forbid someone misses the fact that they were, at some point in time, at the corner grocery store!   And, if you’re hiring for a position that will involve social media, chances are that the most qualified candidates will have a pretty open presence online.  Be cautious, though: the more desperately your workers seek validation on social media, the more time they’ll spend using their personal accounts on the clock.  And when they no longer work for you, they’ll take to those same accounts to broadcast their innermost feelings about you and your company.

3.  They exaggerate their role.  This can often go hand-in-hand with #1 or #2 above.  We all want to hire smart, indispensable go-getters, but if someone’s perception of their own role within the larger organization is grossly inflated, that can be an indicator of future manageability problems.  For example: the McDonald’s cashier who claims to have “practically run the whole place” or the admin who insists they were way smarter than their “idiot boss.”  People who speak of their former company in possessive language (as though they had an ownership interest) also raise a red flag, as it’s quite possible they’ll resist being led.  Ideally, you want to find people who are respectful of your business and cognizant of their own current place in the business world, and who also have the ambition to learn and grow.

4.  They take work-related critiques personally.  As a boss, you have to be able to address performance issues with your workers.  And your workers have to be able to listen to your feedback, accept responsibility for mistakes made, and move forward.  If a worker’s inclination is to sulk, pout, publicly blast you (see #2 above) or, essentially, do anything but apologize and strive to improve when they’re made aware that they’ve let you down, they’re going to be extremely difficult to manage.  You as a leader have a right to expect that those who accept a paycheck from you will fulfill their responsibilities and will make the most of the time for which they’re paid — if feelings (yours or your workers’) get in the way, you and your business won’t be as effective.

5.  They bring out the worst in you.  Avoiding this toxic trait means first knowing your own shortcomings.  For instance, if you know you have a tendency to socialize too much in a work setting, then you need to make absolutely sure that the people who work for you don’t have the same problem.  If you often find yourself feeling pessimistic or overly judgmental of others in times of stress, then you’d be wise to surround yourself with more positive people to compensate for that trait.  You have a great opportunity to balance out your own strengths and weaknesses by selecting your team members thoughtfully.


Jennifer Reitmeyer

Jennifer Reitmeyer is the founder of WeddingIQ and the owner of MyDeejay, Firebrand Messaging, and Authentic Boss. She is also a WeddingWire Education Expert, a small business coach and a professional speaker on the event industry circuit.