The Peril of Toxic Employees | Mark MacLeod

September 21, 2021 - Mark MacLeod

The Peril of Toxic Employees

Hiring is an imperfect science at best. No matter how many rounds of interviews you go through, some people will get in that should not. In addition, some people are great at the time of hiring, but for various reasons, change along the way.

If someone is incapable of doing the job, the decision is easy. They need to go. Not everyone can or wants to grow at the same speed as your company.

But what about the person who delivers results but inflicts collateral damage along the way? What do you do with those effective but toxic employees?

Toxic employees could be a sign of a culture issue

When you look at the most successful companies, they all share a common element: strong, cultures. Netflix, & Hubspot are just two examples of companies that have published excellent documents about their cultures. At all times, but especially now when the fight to keep and retain talent is tougher than ever, culture matters.

Just as it is clear what you need to do with a team member who can no longer deliver, the same is true for the toxic team member. No matter the results that they deliver.

Replace any toxic leaders swiftly

This is especially true for senior leaders. Culture flows down from the top. Your leaders are your cultural ambassadors. They need to authentically live your values and culture at all times.

One word of caution: toxic employees are often great at managing up. You need to go past them to understand the perspective of peers and subordinates.

This is harder at a time when people are not in the office but it is nevertheless vital. For your leadership team consider regular “skip levels” (Ion I meetings with people who report to your direct reports). In addition, consider 360-degree reviews annually.

Tolerations are like cancer cells. They build and eat away at you. Do not tolerate toxic staff, especially toxic leaders, at any time or for any reason. Make sure you have best-in-class HR practices and legal counsel so that you are prepared to exit people swiftly when they become a problem.

Questions to consider when dealing with toxic staff:

Who do I know to be toxic in the company? Why are they still here?

Do we explicitly screen for culture and values fit when hiring?

Are our leaders authentically living our culture and values? If not, what do I need to do?

Do I have a process to get feedback on how our leaders are perceived by their direct reports?

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