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12 of the most toxic employees

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Employees spend eight hours a day with their coworkers during the workweek. That may be more time than they spend with their families. Seeing the same people day in and day out, year after year, can build strong bonds and teamwork — or it can drive an employee nuts.

Just like a large family, most businesses likely have a few employees whom others avoid like the plague. And just like a family, they have a variety of personality quirks and annoying habits. Here are 12 of the worst kinds of coworkers.

gossip

1. The Gossip

This attitude takes its cue from writer Dorothy Parker: “If you can’t say something nice about someone, come sit next to me.”

Gossips can be poison in the workplace, driving wedges between coworkers and lowering morale. Besides spreading stories about fellow employees, they often start rumors about the company itself, such as new policies or impending layoffs. Perhaps the most destructive gossip is about clients or customers, which can come back to haunt management.

sleeping

2. The Slacker

Good employees will pitch in and go the extra mile to make sure the job is done right. Slackers look out for themselves and are at their most creative when looking for ways to avoid work. They can be like professional football players who are drafted high because of their potential but never quite live up to it.

Coworkers soon resent having to not only do their own work but also cover for an unproductive team member. A proven track record always means more than potential productivity.

drama king

3. The Drama King (or Queen)

Every profession carries enough drama and stress without having to manufacture more. Watch out for workers who bring their marital, financial or health issues to work with them, and then share them around the office. Overly dramatic employees usually believe the world revolves around them and that their coworkers are there to meet their needs.

narcissist

4. The Narcissist

According to Hogan Assessment Systems, a Tulsa-based personality assessment firm, 65 percent of respondents in a recent survey said they have at least one friend with an overpowering ego.

In the workplace, they are likely to be found in the break room bragging about their accomplishments on the golf course over the weekend or little Johnny’s role in the school musical. Narcissists can be entertaining, but taking credit for another employee’s accomplishment can quickly build to resentment.

whiner

5. The Whiner

Some employees are impossible to please. That’s fine, as long as they keep their opinions to themselves. Whiners are chronically unhappy and make sure everyone within earshot knows it.

Whining annoys coworkers, reduces productivity and contributes to poor morale. Everyone has complaints, but smart employees understand that they should share them with someone who actually can do something about them.

clock

6. The Clock-Puncher

Clock-punchers may show up on time and put in a full day, but they have long since clocked out mentally. Although they once may have showed drive and initiative, now they are just doing the minimum that is required. They pass on every opportunity to improve their skills or grow in their profession.

Like a stack of old floppy disks, clock-punchers simply occupy space that could be better used.

shopping

7. The Power Shopper

Websites such as Amazon and eBay have revolutionized shopping — even in the workplace. These employees are constantly sitting at their computer and appear to be productive, until you peer over their shoulder and see them shopping for bargains. Even worse is the power shopper who brags to their coworkers about their fantastic deals.

know it all

8. The Know-It-All

Although other coworkers may be more toxic, few are more annoying than the know-it-all. Besides being an expert at their own job, they constantly tell coworkers how they can improve.

They also believe they know more than their boss and can do it better their own way. Know-it-alls, like corrupt politicians, believe that they are so wise that the company’s systems and policies don’t apply to them.

bridge

9. The Rebel with a Cause 

Rebels mistake brashness for courage and consider themselves the conscience of the company. When they think they are right (which is often), they will challenge both coworkers and their boss, and go over their heads if they don’t get their way. One key trait is passive resistance, or testing the boss to see if he or she will take action. The worst rebels are the ones who try to enlist coworkers in their misbegotten crusades.

shrink

10. The Shrinking Violet

Loudmouths may get all of the attention, but shrinking violets can quietly cause just as many problems. These are the employees who may never rock the boat but also never take the initiative and often have to be led step by step by their coworkers.

Because they never want to make a mistake, they never take a risk. Other team members waste time helping them, and takers drain the energy out of the self-starters.

luddite

11. The Luddite

“That’s not how we used to do it” is the refrain of the Luddite. Longtime employees bring valuable experience to the workplace, but they also can be a drag if they constantly resist change and talk constantly about the good old days.

The most toxic Luddites are the ones who hold a grudge, perhaps because they were passed over for a promotion. Somewhere along the way, they lost their curiosity. It’s hard for employees to embrace the future when a coworker is living in the past.

mole

12. The Mole

According to Forbes magazine, 35 percent of employees feel like they were thrown under the bus by a fellow worker. Like the grade-school tattletale, the mole will run to the nearest supervisor as soon as they have something negative to report. More often than not, they can be spotted as employees who never take the blame for their own mistakes and try to find a scapegoat. 

Counting costs

Variety is the spice of life, and a workplace where everyone had the same personality would be boring, as well as unproductive. Nevertheless, human resources professionals need to do everything in their power to weed out — or preferably, avoid hiring — toxic coworkers.

Employers know intuitively that bad coworkers harm morale, cost the company money and drive off good employees. A study of 63,000 employees by Cornerstone OnDemand, a talent management firm, confirms those intuitions:

  • When the ratio of toxic employees reaches 1 in 20, coworkers are 54 percent more likely to quit their jobs.

  • In a group of 20, it costs an average of $12,800 to bring aboard just one toxic employee.

  • By contrast, it costs just $4,000 to hire a good employee.

Sixty-nine percent of employers report that their company had been adversely affected by a bad hire in the past year, according to CareerBuilder. Forty-one percent estimated the cost to be more than $25,000, and 24 percent said a bad hire cost more than $50,000.

“Whether it’s a negative attitude, lack of follow-through or other concern, the impact of a bad hire is significant,” says Rosemary Haefner, vice president of human resources at CareerBuilder. “Not only can it create productivity and morale issues, it can also affect the bottom line.”

See also:

Why big companies like Anthem have started to send their employees to college

How to hire the perfect sales rep

8 ways to be more productive when working from home