The public sector faces a unique HR challenge: unlike most private companies, their workforce represents nearly every profession out there.  The skills required for an employee to be successful vary tremendously depending on the employee’s agency or department, their position within the agency or department, and their profession or job focus.  But the most critical factor in employee success is the same whether they’re public or private employees, and regardless of their position.  That factor is employee engagement.

Gallup’s 2017 State of the Worker report indicated that employee engagement in the United States was the highest it had been in years – at 33%.  Unfortunately, that still means that two out of three workers in the US are not engaged in the job.  Fifty-one percent of employees were “Not Engaged”, and 16% were “Actively Disengaged”.  What’s the difference?

An employee who isn’t engaged in the agency’s mission is just showing up for a paycheck.  They don’t take pride in the work the department accomplishes, don’t try to improve the team’s productivity or morale, and don’t try to improve their own contributions.

A disengaged employee is far worse.  These employees are toxic to culture, morale, and employee retention.  According to Gallup, they’re more likely to steal from their employer, negatively influence co-workers and miss workdays.  Unlike “non-engaged” employees, actively disengaged employees sabotage the success of the department and the employees around them.  Actively disengaged employers are more commonly known as toxic co-workers.

Sometimes toxic employees’ grievances have nothing to do with the department.  In other cases, however, they feel like they haven’t been treated fairly by co-workers or by the agency. They haven’t spoken up about the situation in these cases because they don’t believe their concerns would be heard.  Regardless of the situation, it’s important for toxic employees’ managers and the human resources department to address negative behaviors. 

If it’s possible to discuss and address any issues a toxic employee has with co-workers or the department, that’s the fastest and most positive way to handle the problem.  But if that’s not successful, it’s time to start documenting misbehavior in preparation for escalating disciplinary measures.  Teams with toxic members cannot improve, because the best employees are being held down by the worst ones.  And until offending team members are rehabilitated or removed from the agency, the team will continue to lose its most productive employees to more positive workplaces.

To learn how the CMTS:HR platform can help you manage cases of workplace misconduct, call us at 919-747-3812 or email us at