Just about everybody has worked, at one time or another, in a toxic team or organization where people can't trust each other as far as they can throw them. Improving such a workplace should be every worker's responsibility, and not fall squarely on HR's shoulders.
So what do you do if you're a well-meaning employee loyal to his or her organization, and you're now in the line of fire of toxic worker behavior? Do what's most counter-intuitive and most courageous: Combat toxic worker behavior by exposing the problem to people in your corner. The more people that come out as resistance against inappropriate conduct disrupting the work environment, the better the chances those individuals will stop their behavior, or filter themselves out of the organization. Courageously talking about and campaigning against perpetrators affecting morale will snuff them out like cockroaches exposed to light.
Who should get fired?
Be prepared to leave if the workplace becomes a hostile environment. That's when it's time to cut ties with your company due to their inability to terminate the following toxic employees.
A manager who acts like a dictator.
Yes, managers are employees too, and those exhibiting these traits should be immediately dealt with by their bosses. A dictator manager will create a culture of distrust in which it's not safe to disclose information or work in close collaboration. For employees, job survival here is day to day, due to the unpredictability of the environment. Everybody under such dictatorship is on his or her own. So who can you trust? In the volatile and politically charged workspace under a dictator, trusting your peers is risky--they may really be your boss's ally and your enemies. Trusting this type of dictator is just corporate suicide. Consider updating your résumé.
An employee with a penchant for gossiping.
You know who they are--most likely disgruntled workers who didn't get something their way, disagreed with a change of direction and are now holding grudges, or didn't get that promotion they felt entitled to. They are quick to gossip, and even quicker to hammer leadership for "dumb decisions." Keep a close eye on them. They spread their tumor by enlisting others into their negative spin campaign. They'll also be sure to befriend those innocent new hires to vilify someone or something.
An employee who is a bully.
Thirty-five percent of U.S. workers report being bullied at work, according to a 2010 Workplace Bullying Institute survey. Interestingly enough, women bullies target other women in 80 percent of the cases. It can devastate careers and ruin your health. Babs Ryan, author of America's Corporate Brain Drain, says, "Only 1 percent of bullies are fired; action is usually taken against the [bully's] target. Your only choice may be to leave as quickly as possible -- especially if the company supports that bully repeatedly and has already exited several of the bully's targets."
An employee who lacks accountability.
These toxic workers don't exercise responsibility for their action and, while they may be good performers, they are critical, can't admit to their own mistakes, and will blame their colleagues (or subordinates, if it's a manager) when something goes wrong, even if it's not based on reality. They are simply not accountable for their own actions, which is a severe detriment to morale, culture and employee satisfaction. Before three other good employees quit, this person needs to be severely dealt with.
An employee who sabotages others.
This type of worker will go way out of his way to sabotage anything you're trying to get done, putting obstacles in your way, spreading rumors and making false accusations. There's usually a personal vendetta at work here. Perhaps you're up for a promotion and the saboteur thinks he is more deserving. Now he's out to make your life miserable and trying to spin a negative campaign against you. In dealing with this saboteur, make sure to cover all your bases to protect yourself -- write more detailed emails, CC and BCC other people for extra visibility, document everything, and make backup copies of stuff in the event a false accusation comes your way.