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9 Ways to Control Toxic Employees

9 Ways to Control Toxic EmployeesOne of the things that come up consistently from employee surveys is asking managers to remove toxic employees and poor performers as quickly as possible. Nevertheless, most managers, as well as HR departments, are too cautious and let these employees damage the work environment. Would you like to know how to fix this? In this article, we’ll explore nine ways to take care of this problem.

In their book Connected, Harvard professor Nicholas Christakis and political scientist James Fowler, state that the feelings of one person spread, not only to their friends, but also to their friends’ friends, and then to their buddies. And this phenomenon applies to both positive and negative feelings such as happiness and depression.

The research from Alexandra Gerbasi, Andrew Parker, and Christine Porath indicate that the effect of the negative attitudes from our friends and coworkers are four to seven times stronger than the effect of their positive conducts. Therefore, people who interact with a toxic employee will tend to become toxic themselves. This finding explains why many coworkers go into a negativity spiral resulting in substantial decrease in collaboration, communication, trust, motivation, performance, creativity, energy, and overall engagement. Instead of focusing on doing a great job, employees concentrate on coping with their low morale, dealing with conflicts, and avoiding the annoying coworker.

The top performers will spend time looking for another job while the rest of the employees will have no choice but to endure in this toxic environment. As we discussed earlier, their families and friends will suffer too. Therefore it is imperative to take care of toxic employees swiftly. But how can we do that?

The most obvious and perhaps the best solution is to fire the employee. However, today, especially in large corporations, firing a person may require lots of effort, time, and paperwork. Sometimes that toxic employee is a top performer who just happened to have a difficult personality. He or she could be the top salesperson or the smartest scientist. Other times this person may be a relative or a good friend of a senior executive. Still, it might be better to ask this individual to leave the company.

If you decide to keep this employee for a long term, then you should isolate this toxic employee from the rest of the team using one or more of the following techniques:

  1. Ask the toxic employee or the whole team to work from home.
  2. Move him or her to another area of the workplace.
  3. Move this person from an open area to an office.
  4. Ask the difficult employee to work on a different schedule to minimize contact.
  5. Reassign this person to other projects.
  6. Invite him or her to fewer or no meetings.
  7. Put him or her on leave while the organization recovers from the negative impact, and you develop a long term plan.
  8. Meet with each team member individually. Listen to their complaints and coach them on how to minimize their interactions or how to better collaborate with the noxious employee.
  9. If the harassing employee is a top executive, salesperson, or scientist you could hire a person to be the liaison between him or her and the rest of the team.

Before executing your decision, I recommend that you openly discuss the situation and your plan with the offending employee. If this person doesn’t come on board with the plan, then perhaps the best thing is for him or her to depart.


We have explored nine ways of fixing or controlling the negative impact of toxic employees and maintain sanity in the workplace. Which ones will you apply? Do you have any other suggestions? Please write a comment below.


About the Author: Art Torres is an IT Quality Champion and Change Agent in the Finance and Insurance industries. Builds high-performance, customer-centric teams that enable swift completion of strategic projects with zero critical defects; resulting in higher profits and enhanced customer and employee satisfaction. Improves processes by developing and implementing policies and procedures, best practices, standards, and methodologies.


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