How to Identify & Manage Toxic Employees

toxic employee, toxic employees, Houston business coach

There’s a difference between a toxic employee and a difficult employee. Some employees simply need some guidance, would do better in a different position or department, or aren’t aware of their bad behavior.

On the other hand, toxic employees are a drain on your team, time, and resources, and need to go in order to keep your workplace healthy and successful. Read on to find out how to tell the difference and what to do about it.

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Is My Employee Toxic?

First, determine what’s causing their bad behavior. Sit down with your employee and have a conversation about the problem.

It’s important to give your employee honest feedback and the opportunity to change. Christine Porath, author and Georgetown Associate Professor, explains how to give feedback:

Objectively explain the behavior and its effects, using specific, concrete examples.  “It’s not helpful to say, ‘You’re annoying us all,’” Porath explains. “You have to ground it in the work.”  Also discuss what kind of behavior you’d like to see instead and develop an improvement plan with the employee. “What do you expect them to change? Strive for clearly defined, measurable goals,” Porath says.  “You’re giving them the chance to have a more positive impact on people.”

toxic employee, toxic employees

Maybe their position isn’t really the best fit for them and they would be more successful in a different one.

Perhaps there are certain coworkers they struggle to work with.

Maybe they are going through health complications, big changes in their personal life, loss, divorce, etc.


Offer your employee resources and attempt to fix the problem first.


Use this conversation to offer your employee resources and attempt to fix the problem. For example, offering some time off or counseling for an employee going through the loss of a family member may end up solving the issue.

However, if you offer resources to the employee and the problem continues, take a stand. If this employee’s behavior is negatively impacting your team, it’s time to think about letting that toxic employee go.

Types of Toxic Employees

First, determine exactly what it is that is frustrating about that particular team member before proceeding. Are they always late? Do they have trouble getting along with other employees? Problems with employees happen in every business, so understand that you’re not the first to experience a frustrating team member. Here are a few of the most common “toxic employee” personas business owners have to deal with in their workplace:

toxic employee, toxic employeesThe Slacker

  • Does the bare minimum
  • Consistently late or leaves early
  • Often absent
  • Pushes their work off on everyone else
  • Rarely meets deadlines
  • Goofs off online instead of working

This personality sits back and lets everybody else pick up their slack, happy to get away with the bare minimum. Unfortunately, this means that the rest of your team has to make up for this employee’s lack of motivation.

What to Do About It

If you haven’t already, implementing a timesheet that tracks how your employee spends their time online – or even one that blocks non-productive websites like Facebook – could be a great way to get them back on track. Here are some other strategies for motivating a slacker:

  • Impromptu performance reviews
  • Structured scheduling (i.e. Google Calendar)
  • Clearly defined expectations

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Negative Nancy

  • Always complaining
  • Puts your team in a bad mood
  • Loses their temper with clients
  • Often has conflict with other team members

Negative Nancys bring everyone else in the office down with them. Their negative attitude severely impacts your team, as well as colors the relationships they build with clients. This attitude can lead to conflict with other employees more often.

What to Do About It

Talk to your Negative Nancy about their attitude, but do it in a productive way. Ask them what would make their work more efficient and make them happier in the workplace.

  • Offer constructive solutions to complaints
  • Suggest a more positive perspective by pointing out the good things
  • Challenge them to say “but” when they complain (i.e. “X didn’t go right, but Y did”).

Chatty Cathy

  • Everybody’s best friend
  • Extremely friendly and warm
  • Difficulty focusing
  • Distracts other team members
  • Often misses deadlines
  • Gossips and lives for drama

While it’s a good thing to have a team that enjoys being around each other and talking, the Chatty Cathy takes it a step too far. They may spend an hour chatting with a coworker instead of getting work done. They’re constantly laughing and talking, spreading gossip, and distracting other employees from their work.

What to Do About It

  • Channel their energy into a different project
  • Provide redirection when necessary
  • Define appropriate times for socializing
  • Schedule workplace culture activities

The Mess

The Mess can be extremely intelligent and highly skilled, but still exhibit inappropriate behavior. Common characteristics include:

  • Disorganized
  • Lack of credibility
  • Doesn’t like change
  • Doesn’t take responsibility
  • Drops balls and forgets things

This is the person in your company that no one feels they can really rely on or trust to get things done. They’re generally all over the place, and expect other people to clean up the messes they leave behind.

What to Do About It

  • Offer further training
  • Implement training and improvement plans
  • Provide more structure and support
  • Check in with them a lot
  • Encourage screening for ADD or other issues

Though these are the most common issues businesses experience with employees, they’re not the only ones. There are many different employee behaviors that can be considered toxic. The important thing is to recognize when an employee is hurting your team and do something about it.

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Houston Business Coach Doug Winnie has the skills and expertise you need to help your business grow and succeed now! He has helped numerous businesses reach and exceed their goals time and time again. Get a FREE coaching session when you contact him now!

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How to Identify & Manage Toxic Employees | Business Coach Doug Winnie – Houston, TX



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