The Toxic Worker

Dr. Stephanie White By Dr. Stephanie White, 9th Apr 2017 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Society & Issues

There is an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. You be the judge.

The Toxic Worker

Work, it is just unavoidable for most folks. When we get up in the morning, we get ready, we eat, we drink, and we focus on the tasks of the work day once we arrive at our desk. Mentality is strictly work related for the most part. Getting the job done and getting the job done right is the main objective. Why, some people actually enjoy their line of work. They work hard at their job because they have a strong work ethic in place. The tend to view themselves as having the potential to make a difference and that is what earns them respect. Performance for these folks is not an issue. In a perfect world, our work forces would be filled with such a winning class of staff. Since we do not live in a perfect world, we must focus on the reality at hand.

I was once told there are those that are worker bees, there are those that are the drones of the workforce, and there is that class of creatures that try contaminate the hive and spread disease. Unfortunately, this may not be so different from any work setting. There are those employees that spend more time devising strategies to not work vs. taking the plunge and and actually doing the work. They push their attempts to buck the system because they want to avoid working. They run interference when told to work. They ignore superiors, shift the blame, point the finger, point out problems, and chronically complain about the incompetence of their manager. They run interference at all levels by not working and create problems for those that want to work. It can be very frustrating for the work oriented person to deal with such drama. Soon, mistrust, confusion, and anger divides the workers from management. Staff are in a sort of triangle where poison begins to spread. It infects staff and demoralizes the team. Disease spreads poison. At some point, before being consumed by the poison, control has to be taken and the disease removed or treated. If a diabetic has gangrene on the toe, isn’t that amputated?

I realize that every organization has its own culture. By that, I mean a culture where what exists are those employees that take the initiative to work, those that do what they are told and don’t ask questions because they trust in their managers, and those that deliberately take the passive-aggressive approach and shift attention to others while purposely neglecting their work. The bottom line is that they do not want to work. And, if they do not have to, they simply will not fork out the time or energy to work.

Must we all suffer the wrath of the toxic worker? Honestly, I think it comes down to whether or not a true work ethic exists. Some folks have a strong work ethic and some clearly are devoid of any work ethic and the integrity surrounding that work ethic. These individuals do not care to be productive. They prefer that managers avoid them, and have the rest of the staff compensate for their inefficiency. Yet, they still want to collect that paycheck.

Slackers come in all shapes, sizes, and with varying levels of experience and degrees. Do not be fooled by some with the most impeccable of credentials. These folks may come quite decorated in an interview. Yet, when expected to work, they feel targeted for attack and hold a sense of entitlement that places them in an exempt status for working. And, if more than one of these employees exists in an team, they may even congregate together because they share a lack of work ethic. This just reinforces their negative attitude. They may even hold private meetings where they commiserate and reward their slacker attitudes and values. It is sad, but a reality.

There is an old saying that familiarity breeds contempt. You be the judge.

It can and does get better. Here is what you can do to cope and stay clear from contamination. Continue to cascade your strong work efforts, focus on your responsibilities, implement boundaries, and listen to your gut. If what the person is saying or doing doesn't feel right, chances are it is not for the team. Walk away, or excuse yourself. Do not send signals that would enable or reinforce the behavior. Think about it from this perspective. When your kitchen trash can begins to stink, do you keep it around and let it get worse absorbing the smell the entire time? Or, do you get rid of the source of the smell? Remember, it just not worth the headache or time lost. Do not be silent. You have a voice and you must exercise it to let others know a problem exists and needs to be handled. Remember, we have superiors for a reason. Trust that the leadership team can see in between the lines. Even though toxic workers exist, they do not always win or have the power to ruin a solid team.

Good always prevails!

Stephanie White, PsyD, PhD, LCSW, DCSW


Toxic, Toxic People, Work

Meet the author

author avatar Dr. Stephanie White
Researcher, Academician, Instructor, Psychopathologist,
writes specifically on trauma, psychosocial issues, sociocultural issues, socio-political issues, clinical interventions and behaviors

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author avatar Mindy Connors
26th May 2018 (#)

Well stated

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