Handling a Toxic Employee Issue

 In Business, Business Operations, Case Study

As a manager or supervisor, you must face the toxic employee matter directly and confidently.  This is not a time to pretend the problem doesn’t exist, though certainly that would be most managers’ preference.  The situation not only exists but undermines the entire team, a group that will be watching to see what occurs. And as with most unpleasant tasks, after thinking through your approach carefully, you simply must get in motion.


  1. Identify your own goals and objectives for the task at hand. Having done so, schedule a conversation with the employee. Ask questions. What is influencing this change in demeanor? Is it really different?  If could be chronic, making discernment even harder. Now is the time to work together to overcome underlying difficulties.  Set the appointment to have that conversation, now.

2.  Often, the situation is less than obvious to the employee. He/she may have problems at home, here at work, be feeling financial stress or other insecurities. All can be contributing factors. Perhaps the employee is uncomfortable in his/her position.  Yes, they do the job, and maybe do it well, but see if they won’t share that something deeper.  Hear them. Only then can the problem be addressed.


  1. Give direct, clear, non-judgmental feedback. Address both the behavior and comportment of the employee. Describe succinctly how their behavior or attitude is impacting their team and the overall organization. Avoid comments such as, “You just can’t behave this way.”  Think in terms of, “You may not be aware that your negativism is affecting all of us.”

4.  Tell him/her how you expect behavior to be modified. This is usually much easier said than done. Nevertheless, the employee has to know what you expect and how you want them to behave differently while in the work environment.

5.  Define the benefits of the new outlook and the consequences of non-compliance. If the employee does not make the necessary and needed changes in work behavior, there will be consequences. Money may not be the motivator. You’ll need to figure out what the employee values most and then identity how those benefits may be changed, deleted or altered if the employee does not modify or adjust behaviors.

6.  Document the conversation, and give the employee a copy. File a copy in the employee’s personnel record.

7.  Be realistic. Not everyone is willing to change. Design solutions that consider realistic outcomes.

       If you find yourself in a situation with an unwilling employee, you’ll have to separate him/her from other team members.  Can you transfer them to another department, region, or part of the firm? Be sure you are not passing a bad apple elsewhere.  Develop an environment in which you create new beginning for the employee, one that can be beneficial to all involved.  In all fairness, you need to alert the gaining supervisor as to what he/she will be receiving ahead of time.

Often the employee will initially make the necessary behavior changes when it becomes readily apparent that he/she is being moved, transferred or reassigned due to toxicity issues. But it must be sustained for the situation to work out. Make that clear.

Interested in learning more? You’ll find a good article here.

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