You Have A Toxic Employee, Now What?

September 19, 2023

If you’ve ever had employees, chances are you might have had (or have now) an employee that you would have to classify as “toxic.” If you’ve never had a toxic employee, then consider yourself fortunate. Toxic employees are no fun and can be quick to poison the minds of other employees. They can negatively impact team morale, productivity, and overall company culture which creates a hostile work environment, damages relationships, and hinders business growth. Handling such individuals effectively is essential for maintaining a healthy and thriving workplace. 

Characteristics of a Toxic Employee

1. Negative Attitude: They consistently display a negative outlook and complain about various aspects of their job or the company.

2. Gossip and Spread Rumors: They engage in spreading rumors or talk negatively about colleagues, which can lead to distrust and conflict among other employees.

3. Lack of Accountability: They may avoid responsibilities, blame others for their mistakes, and avoid taking ownership of their actions.

4. Undermine Colleagues: They try to sabotage or undermine the efforts of their co-workers, thus, creating a competitive and uncooperative environment.

5. Constantly Criticizing: They offer relentless criticism without providing constructive feedback, demoralizing others, and hindering their own personal growth.

6. Bullying or Harassment: They may engage in bullying, harassment, or other forms of aggressive behavior towards other employees, leading to an uncomfortable workplace.

7. Resistant to Change: They are resistant to change and innovation, impeding progress within an organization.

8. Low Emotional Intelligence: They lack empathy and struggle to understand and respect the feelings and perspectives of others.

9. Create Turnover: A toxic employee's behavior can drive their colleagues away, leading to a revolving door of employees (including great employees).

10. Non-Compliance with Policies: They may disregard established policies or act in a way that goes against the company’s values.

Addressing Toxic Behavior

It's essential for a business to address toxic behavior promptly and effectively, as it can have far-reaching consequences on employee well-being and business success. By recognizing and managing toxic employees, businesses can foster a positive work environment that encourages collaboration, productivity, and employee satisfaction.

One key strategy is to address the issue head-on. Ignoring or avoiding the problem will only allow it to fester and potentially spread toxicity throughout the entire business. By confronting toxic behavior directly, management can send a clear message that such behavior will not be tolerated.

If a business has a toxic employee (or more than one), it must do the following:

1. Identify problematic behavior - Observe patterns of negative actions.

2. Set clear expectations and consequences - Establish and communicate clear expectations for behavior and performance.

3. Provide constructive feedback - Use specific examples to illustrate how actions impact colleagues and the business.

4. Offer support and resources - Counseling, mentorship, or training programs might help the employee address possible personal or work-related issues causing stress.

5. Encourage open communication - Create an environment where employees feel comfortable sharing concerns without fear of retribution.

6. Provide mediation and conflict resolution among involved employees - Consider bringing in a professional mediator to facilitate open communication and resolution.

7. Document incidents - Maintain thorough documentation of all incidents related to the toxic employee.

8. Enforce company policies consistently - Avoid showing favoritism and ensure that company policies are enforced consistently for all employees.

9. Focus on team building – Foster a positive work culture with team-building activities to encourage collaboration among employees while recognizing achievements and celebrating successes as a team.

10. Know when to terminate – A business must prioritize the well-being of all employees and the overall health of the business; therefore, if all efforts to address the toxic behavior fail and it continues to harm the team and company, it may be necessary to terminate the employee.


Handling a toxic employee requires a proactive and empathetic approach. The negative behavior and attitude of a toxic employee can spread like wildfire through a business creating a toxic work environment for all employees. The consequences of toxic employees extend beyond simple interpersonal dynamics among employees. Valuable employees can be affected in negative ways that ultimately has a negative effect on the business as a whole. By implementing strategies for dealing with toxic employees, businesses can protect their productivity levels while maintaining a positive work environment where all team members feel valued and supported.

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