Easy Tips to Identify a Toxic Employee

toxic employee interview

As a rule of thumb, every organization is responsible for hiring and maintaining a work environment in a manner that their employees can grow, learn and thrive. Hiring a toxic employee can be detrimental for the organization and its employees. Some of the common problems faced by such companies include:

  • Significant issues for organizations such as loss of clientele and diminishing reputation
  • Lack of motivation
  • A decline in productivity and poor employee morale
  • Bullying and harassment
  • Unsafe work practices
  • Dissatisfaction among employees leading to a high turnover

So how do I determine if I’m hiring a toxic employee? 

One of the most highly recommended ways to spot whether you are hiring a toxic employee is during an interview. Asking the right set of questions can allow the employer to identify and determine whether the potential employee would add to your business or prove to be a threat to its environment and working practices.

Tip no. 1: The toxic alert triggering questions

Focus your questions on areas that would shed light on their attitudes and behavior. For instance, a candidate who may have nothing positive to say about their past employer may be a red flag.

Often, interviewers come across resumes hinting at things the candidates disliked. This may be a particular project they worked on, a personality, or even former supervisors who failed to deliver. Delve deeper into such areas, and probe the applicant to talk more about such events or instances. This is so you can get a better read on them. This will also help you gauge if you are about to hire a toxic employee.

If you notice the interviewee holding grudges against former bosses, employers or managers, try to remain neutral and identify whether the candidates’ concerns are valid or self-centered and irrational.

Watch out for their verbal and non-verbal cues

Tip no. 2: The “How they handled challenges” question

It’s a known fact that we all tend to show our true colors during a conflict. Studies suggest that when under pressure, a toxic employee will either opt to handle things aggressively or play the victim card. During the interview, asking candidates about the most challenging situations they had to handle and how they dealt with them is another way to determine whether you are hiring a toxic employee. 

Watch out for those who try getting away by not taking responsibility, playing the damsel in distress, or even blaming others for their actions. At times, while figuring out whether you’re hiring a potentially toxic employee, you will come across situations where you won’t even have to ask any triggering questions.  

Toxic candidates will end up doing it all by themselves by finding ways to paint a negative picture of their former bosses or workplaces. Your job as an interviewer is to watch out for the signs. These will help you make an informed decision regarding whether you are about to hire a toxic employee.

On the other hand, applicants who tend to be engaging in a lot of flattery for you or sound self-centered and are full of praises for themselves are also potential red flags. Such individuals cannot stop exaggerating their accomplishments or boasting about themselves. All of these are also clear signs of toxicity in a candidate.

Tip no. 3: Conducting a comprehensive background check

Another way to confirm whether you are about to hire a toxic employee is by conducting an in-depth background and reference check. Do not just limit yourself to what is written on the resumes or shared during the interview. Go the extra mile. Cross-reference and double-check all the information you have received. References at times might not be open to share or report anything negative or disheartening, so try to find a pattern among the references indicating symptoms of toxicity.

Read More: Maintaining social and emotional wellness at work

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