Dealing With a Toxic but Performing Employee


According to Art Petty, an executive leadership coach, in every organisation there is that one member of staff who is excellent at their job, but their brilliance comes with a measure of toxicity that is detrimental to the workplace culture and to their colleagues. A manager is therefore faced with a daunting challenge of protecting and defending this stimulating character as a precious asset and source of competitive advantage while vainly attempting to mitigate the damaging toxicity.

As a human resource manager, you should ensure that the organisation reaps the best performance from staff. However, you cannot dismiss the concerns and complaints from employees about toxic or disruptive behavior from another employee. By rationalizing your employee’s behavior you are creating a culture of accountability with two sets of rules, which undermines your role as a manager. Here’s what to do instead.

Gauge the Level of Toxicity

The brilliant-toxic employee steps on toes, treats critics rudely, violates team and individual trust, bypasses the chain of command, alienates team members, and irks everyone around them in the workplace. Evaluate the types of behaviors that causes annoyance, reduces collaboration/teamwork, and adds stress to the culture of the workplace. Ensure the issues don’t escalate to harassment, violence or threats of violence.

Give them Direct Feedback

In many cases, toxic people are oblivious to the effect they are having on others. They are too focused on getting their way and don’t realize they are being as disruptive as they are. That’s why it’s crucial to give direct and honest feedback so they understand the problem and have an opportunity to change. Objectively explain the behavior and its effects, using specific, concrete examples. Also discuss what kind of behavior you’d like to see instead and develop an improvement plan with the employee.

Explain the Consequences

If the person is hesitant to reform, figure out what they care most about — the privilege of working from home, their bonus, and put that at stake. For most people, the possibility of missing out on a promised promotion or suffering other consequences will be a strong motivation to behave in a more civil way.

Document Everything

If you conclude that you really need to fire the person, you must first document their offenses and any responses you’ve offered so far. You want to establish a pattern of behavior, the steps you took to address the problem, the information, warnings or resources provided to the employee, and the failure of the employee to change. This is to protect yourself and the company and to show your employee exactly why they are being let go.

Separate the Toxic Person from Other Team Members

As soon as you put some physical distance between the offender and the rest of the team, you’ll see the situation start to improve. Porath calls this “immunizing” the others. You will hopefully decrease the number of run-ins and the cognitive loss. But make sure to do this with discretion. Let employees come to you with their complaints about the toxic colleague and use one-on-one conversations to coach them on how they might minimize their interactions.


Managing a toxic employee is a crucial managerial duty in any workplace, to ensure the disengagement of the employees doesn’t interrupt the competitive advantages of the organisation. However the manager should know that it is time and energy consuming. Don’t spend so much on one individual that your other priorities fall by the wayside. To counteract the negativity and to make sure you continue to thrive and surround yourself with supportive, positive people.



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Human Capital Resources and Solutions.

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