Dealing with Toxic Employees

Dealing with Toxic Employees

Dealing with Toxic Employees | Company morale — a crucially important factor in the success and reputation of a business — can be improved or worsened depending on business practices, the HR team, and most importantly, management

One of the most common morale tankers in businesses are toxic employees; those who are disrespectful to their peers, heavy gossipers, and who attempt to start trouble with their coworkers. To avoid allowing these employees to damage company morale, it’s important to have strong leadership and go through the proper protocols to avoid problematic situations as much as possible. 


The kind of leadership a company needs hinges on the work environment and structure. Some workplaces wouldn’t function without stern leaders in charge. Others would do poorly if their managers weren’t laid back. It simply depends on the role of the manager in the company, how much autonomy the employees are allowed, and how much managing is required to guarantee success. 

While leadership styles may vary between businesses, they also differ from person to person. Depending on a manager’s personality, the leadership role can change to blend with the person in charge. But no matter the leadership style, supporting your employees and treating them with respect is vital to keeping them motivated and engaged.

To avoid toxic employees, you should start by knowing how to hire the right employees for the job. Having a skilled and experienced recruiter or hiring manager can save you thousands of dollars in expenses that come with high turnover rates. Take precautions when hiring to ensure potential employees’ personalities match the job and the workplace, and look closely at job histories to avoid hiring individuals with employment problem patterns. There’s no way to avoid toxic employees altogether, but being mindful during the hiring process can help you weed out the obvious bad apples from the start. 

Using Effective Judgement

Communication and using the right tools is key to being a good leader in all jobs, especially if your employees work remotely. Knowing how to talk about sensitive issues can save companies from employee dissatisfaction. A leader who’s compassionate and cares about the employees under their watch will gain their respect. 

As a leader, it’s important to use your judgement to sift through complaints about employees before you address them. Is it possible that this employee is receiving a bad rap from their co-workers? Is there a situation going on behind the scenes that’s causing workers to target the employee in question? Though it’s important to listen to the complaints of your employees, it’s also important to recognize that drama can exist in the workplace. It’s inconvenient when your employees don’t get along, but being misunderstood or having unlikeable characteristics are not fireable offenses. Taking a coaching and mentoring approach with a troubled employee may be enough to squash any issues that are causing complaints.

That said, toxic employees do exist. These individuals can be especially difficult to deal with, even if they’re not committing fireable offenses. Employees who instigate problems and are disruptive to work flow can be given performance improvement plans. If they don’t improve, they should be let go. 

Employees who get their work done, but stir the pot with rumors and workplace gossip can be more difficult to deal with. Truly toxic employees consistently frustrate and demoralize their coworkers, and allowing these behaviors to continue can cost you good workers.

Addressing Behavior

The first step in addressing the behavior of toxic employees is to talk to them. If their pattern of behavior shows they’re the root of the issue, have a one on one with them to find out what’s going on. Are they unhappy with their job or is there a situation in their personal life that’s causing them to act out? If you find there’s an outside factor behind their behavior, offer options such as counseling or time off work for them to calm down. Even if they’re going through a difficult time, it’s necessary to give them direct feedback about how their behavior is affecting the workplace and to clearly convey your expectations for future behavior.

Hopefully this is enough to solve the issue. However, if the behavior continues, you’ll need to proceed with disciplinary action. Although it’s better to encourage change through positivity, sometimes managers are left with few options other than taking privileges away from the employee. Each time you address the employee, it’s important to document the conversations that take place to avoid potential legal issues that could arise if the employee deems they are being treated unfairly. 

When difficult situations arise, leaders often make organizational missteps as tense and sudden situations can sometimes be hard to handle with tact. If an employee is spreading gossip about coworkers and/or management, it’s important to let them know you hear and understand their concerns. Don’t let one bad employee take up too much of your time and energy. As leaders, it’s important to recognize when to leave a situation alone. You can’t resolve every problem, and if no fireable offenses are occuring, make moves to separate the toxic employee from the others.


Trying to get to the bottom of employee behavioral patterns may be the most effective thing you can do as a leader. However, if this fails to work, you should continue addressing the issues until a solution is found, even if just by separating employees from each other. There are many factors to being a good leader and whatever your style is, communicating as clearly and compassionately as possible can help you connect with employees and deal with the problems they’re having. 

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