Beware Of These 8 Toxic Employee Disengagement Behaviours


“Bad boss”, “stupid managers”, “awful company”

There is a tendency for employees to blame their company for their frustration and disillusionment. Although poor management, bias leadership, lack of organizational support, and insufficient resources are all real things in too many organizations, we rarely discuss the effects that toxic employee disengagement behaviours have on the workplace and the business itself.

According to a Gallup study, disengaged employees can cost companies anywhere between $450 and $550 billion each year. That’s a lot of zeros. However, it’s not just a matter of facts and figures. Employee disengagement negatively impacts productivity, performance, corporate culture, and ultimately leads to employee turnover. That’s the human cost of disengagement and it simply cannot be overlooked.

Leaders and managers surely carry their share of the blame for their lack of employee engagement efforts, but it’s not that cut-and-dry. Employee disengagement can also be the direct result of deviant (read: toxic) employee workplace behaviours which must be addressed immediately anytime they’re witnessed.

So, let’s take a long, hard look at the often unspoken truth about employee disengagement:  “Toxic Workplace Behaviours”.

Danger! Toxic Employee Behaviour Ahead.

Malicious Compliance

It sounds like a rather demonic term, indeed, but what this rather intimidating appellation really describes is a state in which employees intentionally inflict harm to the company they work for. A maliciously compliant employee does harm to an organization by exclusively and literally following their superior’s orders, or company’s rules when they know full well that doing so will not achieve the intended results.

Here’s a real-world example of this employee disengagement behaviour: your airline employs a customer service representative who, every time they answer a call, goes into a never-ending monologue explaining all the more alarming passenger procedures while knowing that this will scare customers away. This behaviour would likely fall under the heading of “malicious compliance”, even if, technically, the employee did officially follow the rules.

Passive–Aggressive Behaviour

This behaviour is pretty self-explanatory. Passive-Aggressive employees tend to chronically disrupt office morale and corporate productivity. They do so by expressing their negative feelings in a harmful way, but always indirectly, by sabotaging projects for instance. Their actions can involve: lateness, avoiding responsibility for tasks, doing the bare minimum, abusing sick days, calling out co-workers in meetings, procrastination, and more.

Counterproductive Work Behaviour (CWB)

This defines the actions of employees who purposely go against defined corporate goals. Counterproductive Work behaviours can involve theft or sabotage of equipment, gossiping and spreading rumors, favoritism, and can go as far as physical aggression and harassment in the workplace.

Types of ‘Workplace Deviance’

Workplace Deviance encompasses a series of unhealthy workplace behaviours that negatively impact employee engagement and overall corporate success. It usually arises from the employee’s perception that they’ve been mistreated in some manner by their organization. As a result, these employees want to harm their company by causing problems in the workplace.

Employee Deviance

Employee Deviance is directly related to workplace deviance. It includes gossiping about co-workers and assigning blame to them. This type of behaviour stems from the employee’s sense of entitlement often associated with exploitation. In other words, their frustration leads them to misbehave with their co-workers, thinking it will benefit them in the end.

Organizational  Deviance

Organizational Deviance corresponds to anomalous employee behaviours specifically directed toward their company. It encompasses production and property deviance, such as theft, and excessive absenteeism.  Another form of organizational deviance can be employee’s willful silence, that is to say, employees withhold important information with the intention to negatively affect their organization’s success.


Cyberloafing is a relatively recent form of workplace deviance directly related to the misuse of technology available at the workplace. This behaviour includes surfing the web, chatting on social media, online shopping, etc., instead of focusing on work-related tasks.

Organizational Retaliatory behaviour (ORB)

Organization Retaliatory Behaviour (ORB) is defined as a revengeful reaction from employees toward their employer as a way to correct a perceived wrong or workplace injustice. Employees are more likely to exhibit ORB through sabotage and theft when they feel their company should be punished for what they did to them, whatever that may be.

Employee Self-Entitlement

We all know co-workers who feel entitled to say and act as they please, and who believe they’re the best at what they do, while they simply are not. Employee Self-Entitlement corresponds to a resistance to feedback, a tendency to overestimate talents and accomplishments, and potentially, poor team spirit and questionable company loyalty. A self-entitled employee can be highly detrimental to employee engagement and overall workplace happiness.

How To Deal With Toxic Employee Disengagement Behaviours

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If even one the behavioural definitions applies to your situation, you must take immediate corrective action, otherwise, employee engagement in your company may suffer terribly. Don’t worry, because there are things you can do. The first thing to do is to address the problem head-on, beginning with recognizing that you have one.

It’s sometimes quite hard to deal with these employee disengagement behaviours, especially if the employee in question is an executive. If that’s your case, the problem should be confronted with even more urgency, given that the greater authority a leader has, the more damage they can cause over time.

Once you’ve realized and thoroughly analyzed the extent of the problem, you can then start having open and honest discussions with the individual. You need to make it crystal clear that you will not tolerate such out-of-line behaviours. 

If the discussion bears no positive outcome, it’s time to take official company action to address the issue. No change must lead down the path to no job. If you want your company to thrive and retain your best people, then you’ll definitely need to take the bull by the horns, so to speak, and use the chopping block.