Do you have a Toxic Mary?

Contributed by Julie Proscia

Every business has one, it is inevitable. I like to call this person the Toxic Mary of the organization. Toxic Mary may do an average job or even a good job. Generally speaking, the person has been with the organization a few years and his or her annual performance reviews always meet expectations. So you keep them on. BUT, and it is a big but, Toxic Mary constantly breeds discontent. He or she is the first person to gripe about working extra, the first person to complain about pay and the first person to use ALL CAPS and BOLD in e-mails to express discontent.   

Toxic Mary is just that…toxic. He or she poisons the morale of the organization and is more dangerous than a computer virus or a bad economy.  Too often employers let this behavior slide because they cannot put a finger on the exact way to classify the behavior and the employee is “doing their job.”  In reality, with this attitude, Toxic Mary is not doing his or her job and you deserve better. As an employer you cannot make employees love their jobs or turn their jobs into lifelong passions, however, repeat after me, it is ok to require that employees do not destroy your organization with negativity.  Again, you deserve a better caliber of employee.

One of the most progressive things that you can do for your organization is to discipline and terminate Toxic Mary. First, document and bring the behavior to Toxic Mary’s attention. What are the buzz words you ask? Fostering an unprofessional and un-collegial work environment and insubordination. Give Toxic Mary examples of this behavior and let he or she know that it is unacceptable and that additional unprofessional behavior in the future will lead to disciplinary action; up to and including termination. If it happens again, first call your friendly L&E attorney, then either proceed to discipline or terminate Toxic Mary. The difference in the office will be noticeable. Too often employers feel trapped and assume that behavioral issues must be tolerated and only production issues can be addressed. That is not the case. Poor production can be coached and counseled to change – poor attitude cannot.