5 Types of Toxic Team Members that Can Hurt Your Firm

Building a team can be one of the most challenging aspects of growing a firm. Your team drives your firm’s success, so it’s essential everyone works well together and can produce positive results.

While there are plenty of resources around critical areas like creating a strong culture, team building, leadership, and what makes a good team member, there’s a lack of resources about which types of team members can be toxic for your firm.

Knowing how to pinpoint and manage what team members are doing more harm than good can be just as important as knowing which members are best for the team. We’ve put together a list of the 5 most common types of team members to avoid (or coach back into the firm).

1. The “Yes” Person

When you hire a new team member, especially one that doesn’t have a lot of experience, it’s easy for them to say “yes” or “got it” to everything you ask them. This is because they don’t want to deliver bad news, appear incapable of completing the work, or disappoint in any way.

You can avoid the constant yes by rephrasing how you ask for comprehension. For example, instead of saying a yes/no question such as “Do you have any questions?” or “Do you understand,” try rephrasing by saying something like, “What questions do you have?” or “Just to make sure I didn’t miss anything, can you repeat the instructions back to me?”

Simply adjusting the way you ask a question can make a huge difference in the way you communicate with a team member. Remember, you’re the manager, and it’s your responsibility to manage your team well.

2. The Client Downer

This is a dangerous team member because internally, they’re likely very good at what they do. However, your business thrives on relationships, not just delivering work, so their lack of client engagement skills can carry many negative results.

Therefore, it’s important to rely on client satisfaction reports, as well as work 1-1 with your team to improve interpersonal communication and client engagement skills. You should work hard to ensure each member of your team is upholding the level of standards you’ve set for your firm.

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3. The “It’s not my job”

Especially for a small firm, the “it’s not my job” attitude can be extremely toxic. In many small businesses, it’s likely required to wear a few different hats to ensure each task is being completed. Even for larger firms, you need your team to contribute to strategy and ongoing feedback on the firm, instead of just clocking in and clocking out.

An “it’s not my job” employee can also negatively impact the rest of the team. It shows a lack of care and respect for the task at hand, and the bad attitude can even start to rub off on other employees, creating an “I’m not doing it if they aren’t doing it” attitude.

Upon hiring, make sure your new team member is aware they may have a few tasks to complete outside of their regular list of responsibilities. Inform them this is an essential part of being a member of your team.

4. The Lone Ranger

AKA, not the team player. This is the team member that does not like to work with others, can be rude, short-tempered, and closes themself off to other team members (or to clients).

They may think their work is more easily completed on their own, but in many firms, mistakes can be made, and a team effort is often required to best serve your clients. You also have to keep your culture in mind when you run into this type of employee. If your firm is built upon working as a team, a lone ranger can greatly affect the overall culture.

5. The Not-So-Good Ring Leader

The not-so-good ring leader is one that when something goes wrong, or they don’t agree with something, instead of speaking to a partner or owner, they rally one (or more) team members to join in on their frustration. From there, a minor issue can turn into a larger issue, disrupting not only their own productivity but everyone else’s around them.

Whereas the previous four toxic team members were somewhat isolated to the individual (although can still affect the team), the not-so-good ring leader loves a good rally and will typically bring others to their side, even for minor issues. Like most of the other toxic team members, this one can really cause a rift in the productivity and culture of the team.

In the end, building a team is an ongoing investment of time and resources. You’ll have to coach, do one-on-one’s, and make sure each member of your team has the resources they need to best serve the rest of the team.

Your Growth Depends On Your Team

When an accounting firm focuses on growth, the tendency is naturally to look at efforts to bring on more clients. While predictable growth in leads and sales is essential for expansion, it’s not the most critical component of the equation.

True, profitable growth happens when you’re able to hire the right people. With the right team, you’ll create a better client experience, have more referrals, and a better overall work environment.

Make it a priority to remove/avoid toxic team members and build a culture you are proud of in your firm. It’s rarely (if ever) easy to build a great team, but the rewards are obvious… you grow faster than you ever thought possible.

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