Editor’s note: The following consists of a conversation between RCS Multimedia Manager Megan Ellsworth, and Art Unlimited CEO Anna Anderson. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript below.
Megan Ellsworth: Hello everyone, back again here at RoofersCoffeeShop. My name is Megan Ellsworth, and I am chatting with Anna Anderson about this month's influencer question which is, how do you deal with toxic employees? I'm really interested to hear what you have to say, Anna.
Anna Anderson: Well, toxic employees are a hot topic regardless of what business you're running. By the way, I apologize, it is a pleasure to be here. Thank you so much, Megan.
Megan Ellsworth: Likewise.
Anna Anderson: Our company does EOS, the Entrepreneurial Operating System, and what we find is first you need to... Toxicity doesn't just happen within your company. Usually there's something within that individual, it's already toxic prior to coming. Not always, but generally that toxicity already is there. In the interview process, asking questions about prior employment, understanding is there baggage that's maybe coming with them, and listening well to the responses that come out of those team members. A lot of toxic employees we've found don't align with your company's core values. When you have those core values clearly defined, it gives you the ability to, in our case, we say, "Here's our core values; family, vision, empower, excel. What do those values mean to you as a team member or as an individual?"
Anna Anderson: They're not even part of the Art Unlimited family at that point. They then share with us what that value means to them at their core. And it gives us the ability to say, "Okay, they don't even know our culture, they don't know who we are. Does that align? Does family align with how we view family and how they view family?" Because these are big words.
Megan Ellsworth: Right.
Anna Anderson: It does give us some visibility to how do they look at their life? And then when they're within the Art Unlimited family, that's where it gets bit stickier. You're not going to lie and say we haven't ever had toxic employees. But I think the one key thing is you do need to make sure from an EOS perspective, you're doing the following: you're hiring well, you recognize that there is a component that you just sometimes you do have to let people go, but you're reviewing their performance, you're rewarding their performance. And in that reward, you're also recognizing it, so your team doesn't just see you dealing with toxic team members. But they're also seeing you honor and recognize and reward, because trust me, those rewards that roll out in private, everybody knows about it. Those pieces from an EOS perspective are critical. So again, they're higher, fire, review, reward and recognize. When you get those pieces down, you've got great things happening.
Megan Ellsworth: Wow. That's really cool. Could you repeat the higher, fire, just for everyone? Because that I think is so important and that's a good little nugget for people to take away.
Anna Anderson: Yeah. So higher, fire, review, reward and recognize.
Megan Ellsworth: Wow.
Anna Anderson: And when you have that toxic team member always make sure that when you're dealing with that issue, we look at it and we say, "You know what? We love people. And people are sometimes good people, they just have a lot of crummy stuff they're dealing with that."
Megan Ellsworth: Totally.
Anna Anderson: They don't know how to process. And the pandemic is a perfect example. We have great people. You have great people and life just dealt them with some bad cards. So is that toxicity a result of something? Do you need to, in some cases, we've said, "You know what? This might not be the right place for you right now. We love you, but it's time to part ways." We don't just say, "Hey, it's over. Grab your stuff or it's packed. Here's the door." We say, "You know what? We have learned a lot. We hope you've learned a lot. And we hope that at some point we can reconnect." We recognize it's not going to be, you're not going to be happy with us, but you know what? honoring someone in that process and saying life happens and maybe they are truly toxic and they've let something just fester for so long. You can't change someone that doesn't want to be changed. I feel like a lot of times people just say, "Well, they're toxic. Get them out of here."
Megan Ellsworth: Totally.
Anna Anderson: Sometimes we need to just say, "Life's been really hard. How can I help you?" And help them on that journey. We found some people were still really good friends with that we... And one person came back into the team after they had gone through that toxic moment and found out they needed to remove some people from their life and we weren't the result of the toxicity. And it's a great relationship now, but it won't only have been possible if we had said, "Hey, we love you. We honor you and we want you to be the best person you can be. And a full-time job is just not that. You need to live your life and address some things." And we gave some opportunities for a development and they were like, "Wow, I can't believe you did this for me because I've been kind of a jerk."
Megan Ellsworth: Wow.
Anna Anderson: But sometimes you just don't know how to cope. To lead in love, to honor people and recognize they do have gifts, it's just not the right fit.
Megan Ellsworth: Wow. I love that. That is so well said and so important, especially now that we've all been through like this traumatic two years with the pandemic and things are always moving and always seem a little unstable. I love that leading with love and honoring people. That is so well said, Anna. So true.
Anna Anderson: Yeah. You know what? One person, actually we've done this a couple of times, we've recognized that they needed a reset, like a life reset. They weren't toxic. They were just overwhelmed. And we said, "As a leadership and management team, what's the reset for this individual?" We were able to roll that out for that individual. They were like, "Am I losing my job? What's happening?" We said, "No, you've had just a lot on your plate. Let's do a reset. We'll see you at this point. Feel free, get these pieces in place." And an amazing team member is now in a very healthy place.
Megan Ellsworth: Wow.
Anna Anderson: So some of those stories like just look at it through a different lens. And there's always an opportunity for that individual to thrive.
Megan Ellsworth: Love it. So well said. Thank you for talking with me today. Any last words that you want to leave with the contractors out there?
Anna Anderson: I think the key things that we drilled in on hold true to us and our growth. Our growth has been significant, but if we stay true to our core values, we use those core values as our hiring lens, and we're also using that to release people through the higher, the fire, the review, reward and recognize, if you do those things and you check in on a quarterly basis, you check in and you have those annual reviews and you document all of that career path planning, succession planning, like all those pieces are in place, you're going to find that toxicity is going to be rare and you're going to have a really healthy workplace.
Megan Ellsworth: That's so great. I hope everyone took notes during this because there was some really great nuggets here of wisdom and advice. Thank you, Anna. Very well said.
Anna Anderson: Thank you so much.
Megan Ellsworth: And we will see you next month in May.
Anna Anderson: Sounds good.
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