Is your “best” employee really the most toxic on your team?

7 min read

This article has been translated from our English edition.

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Is your “best” employee really the most toxic on your team?
Is your “best” employee really the most toxic on your team?

Do you want employees who will go the extra mile for your company?

You may think this question is supposed to be ironic. After all, the benefits of committed and proactive employees are obvious. Employees willing to go the extra mile, whether it be developing and expressing their good ideas and suggestions, helping their employees when needed, or adopting new initiatives or policies despite personal inconvenience, are crucial in today’s business environment after innovation and growth has become increasingly competitive and elusive.

However, this behavior of employees can also have a downside. A growing body of research indicates that employees who make extra efforts beyond their required tasks can also engage in toxic or destructive work behavior, e.g. B. Being late at work, withholding required information from others, and even participating in a stole. Not only does this behavior create a high financial cost to businesses, but it can also spread to other members in the workplace if not activated.

Various explanations have been offered as to why good corporate citizens can also be so toxic. Some of these include feeling pressured to do more than your formal job responsibilities require, a strong sense of legitimacy to have gone the extra mile, or a general lack of connection with others at work. Whatever the reason, it’s important to make sure that the employee behavior you seek doesn’t cost you later. To avoid such pitfalls, consider the following:

1. Rethink a carrot or stick approach to reward good behavior

Sometimes employees go beyond duty out of a desire to help the organization succeed. Perhaps their urge to do more than is expected of them is an expression of their innate tendencies (e.g. conscientiousness) or driven by a strong connection with the organization or the people in it.

Developing a workforce of intrinsically motivated employees is ideal, but not an easy task. It requires coordinated efforts across all organizational functions, from selection and recruitment to leadership development and employee compensation. As a result, managers often look to other ways to motivate their employees to go the extra mile, such as: B. Using rewards or punishments or even creating a competitive environment in which employees try to outshine their colleagues. The problem with the latter approach, however, is that employees who feel compelled to do more for the company than is justified may feel empowered to subsequently focus on their own needs, which is detrimental to their organization and its employees. This means that tempting employees with a sweeter carrot or threatening them with a sharper whip can lead to some desirable behaviors. However, such an approach can cost you by making employees more willing to engage in destructive and counterproductive work behavior later on.

2. Make employee social image an important aspect of the environment

Research has shown that employees who are concerned about their reputation are less likely to engage in behavior that could damage their social image, even if they feel empowered to do so after doing a laudable act. For example, one study suggests that creative workers are likely to feel encouraged to break the rules in the workplace, which they may be more inclined to do Cyberloaf, If you are late for work or engage in other harmful behavior, your desire to maintain your perspective can help reduce your willingness to engage in such deviant acts.

How can you motivate employees to take care of their social image? One way is to publicly acknowledge and display good behavior. Achieving a positive social image is usually very desirable. It can improve our social status and recognition at work, and it plays a key role in maintaining positive self-esteem. When we are aware that we are seen positively by our fellow human beings, we try to maintain these impressions and therefore tend to be more careful with our behavior and presentation. This means that if you want to curb the wrongdoing of workers who go the extra mile, a good starting point is to highlight the behavior you want to make them aware of the image-related costs that arise if they later turn to harmful behaviors let in.

3. Helps employees feel connected to the organization

One final way to mitigate some of the destructive behaviors described above is to encourage employees to feel part of your organization and its members. Research has shown that when employees define themselves in relation to their employees or the organization as a whole, they feel less compelled to focus on their own interests, even after going the extra mile in their business.

Research on social identity suggests that when we feel valued by others, we are likely to include them in our sense of identity and, consequently, act to show our solidarity with them. When employees start to see their organization as an important and central aspect of themselves, they will likely go the extra mile to help the company, not because they have to, but because they really want to. When there is such motivation to give back to the organization, there are fewer incentives or reasons to feel the need to give back later.

While maintaining such a collective identity among your employees will take a significant effort, the first thing you should do is make sure that your employees feel included and help them see that their needs, goals, and values ​​are aligned with those of your company.

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