Employees believe their employers are too tolerant of toxic coworkers, according to survey results announced by a leadership development and training firm last week.

According to the survey conducted by Fierce, Inc., 62 percent of employees say toxic coworkers should be confronted about their negative attitudes, but 78 percent say their organizations are “extremely” to “somewhat tolerant” of their toxic colleagues.

The survey consists of responses from more than 1,000 executives and employees in multiple fields, including healthcare, retail, manufacturing, education, and financial services.

Employees and executive agree that toxic employees lower morale and productivity of their organizations. An overwhelming 78 percent of respondents cite a negative attitude—identified as the key trait of a toxic employee—as “extremely debilitating” to team morale.

Fierce reports that employee negativity trumps gossiping, laziness, and passive-aggressiveness as the most detrimental trait a coworker can exhibit.

In fact, 33 percent of employees believe a colleague with an overly negative attitude should be fired, while 63 percent say a special skill or talent “infrequently” outweighs the impact of a coworker’s negativity.

According to the survey, the poor attitudes of coworkers impact the workplace in distinct ways:

  • Decreased morale, cited by 48 percent of survey respondents.
  • Decrease productivity, 27 percent.
  • Increase in stress, 17 percent,
  • Increased distractions, 8 percent.

“Negativity leads to reduced productivity and engagement, and allowing it to fester is much more costly and damaging to an organization’s bottom line than confronting or possibly replacing a single toxic employee,” said Halley Bock, CEO and president of Fierce, Inc. in a statement about the survey.

“Organizations must foster employee- and company-level accountability by addressing attitudinal issues as soon as they arise.”

Coworker negativity “extremely debilitating” to team morale, according to 78% of employees

Fierce recommends these communication tips for preventing negative attitudes at the office:

  • Promote accountability. Foster an environment of personal accountability encouraging employees to take responsibility for their outcomes, both positive and negative.

Fierce says it is important to actively seek out employee opinions and to give them a voice on important decisions affecting the company. This also allows the employees to understand the context and how they contribute to the well-being and overall success of the organization.

  • Address problems quickly. Don’t let more than 48 hours go by when an issue arises. Address an employee’s negative attitude before it gets worse, in a short and sweet manner.
  • Offer 365-degree feedback.Offer positive as well as negative feedback as well, Fierce says, citing a 2012 Globoforce Motivation Worldwide study, which found that 81 percent of employees claimed recognition made them more satisfied with their work. (Editor’s Note: Globoforce is a provider of social recognition solutions, according to the company website.)
  • Confront them. When offering feedback hasn’t improved the situation, it is important to confront the issue head-on. For starters, name the problem, and then give specific examples.

Indicate the desire to resolve the matter and invite the employee to respond. Ask questions to peel back the layers of the issue, Fierce says.

About Fierce

Fierce, Inc. is a leadership development and training company that drives results for business and education by improving workplace communication.

Topics Training Development