When and how to let go of a toxic employee

Do you have a member of staff who makes other employees feel uncomfortable? Unsure about the legal implications of removing an employee from your company? Unfortunately, a common question we get asked is how to handle a toxic employee or team member. It can be very difficult to manage a team effectively when you are dealing with these personalities and, understandably, can cause a great deal of despair about how to rectify the situation. 

On one hand, this person may have nurtured or developed success within their role, and have not technically done anything worthy of dismissal. On the other hand, their negative attitude or behaviour can have a detrimental effect on your whole team. You may have discussed this with them, but after a prolonged period of time, it may become clear that they are not intent on changing their ways. 

toxic employee

What do we mean by a ‘toxic employee’?

As you may have surmised, toxic people are not generally pleasant people to be around.

When we refer to someone as ‘toxic,’ we’re referring to people who are poisonous, malignant, or otherwise damaging (metaphorically speaking). 

There are several different kinds of toxic employees, as well as varying levels of toxicity which can harm your employees and your business: 

  • Financial

This kind of toxicity in the workplace typically involves lying about sickness or personal leave, but in the worst case, you may have received evidence that they have been stealing from other employees or the organisation itself.

  • Personal 

Some less severe examples of toxicity could be lethargy, a lack of social skills or a sense that this person is not committed to the role. Conversely, if confidence overdevelops into arrogance, this individual may act ‘like they own the place’, purposefully intimidating new or younger staff.

  • Psychological

Perhaps this person has made snide or offensive remarks towards other employees about their skillset, personality or identity. This can cause significant harm to any individual, and is never conducive to a healthy and happy work environment. 

Why you should confront a toxic employee 

Nobody should be afraid to start their working day because of another employee. If this is how they behave in front of you or other employees, imagine how they might act in front of potential investors and consumers. Toxic behaviour in the workplace does not only affect people, but also the business itself. 

As a manager, you possess a level of responsibility for the welfare of your staff whilst they are at work. Therefore, you must do something about the toxic atmosphere created by these individuals. 

You may be wondering: ‘How? I don’t want a tribunal on my hands. How can I let them go without causing a considerable headache for myself and my team?’ Here is our advice for dealing with a toxic employee for the betterment of your team’s productivity and satisfaction. 

How to handle a toxic employee

Managing a toxic employee in an internal context 

If you intend to resolve the issue within the business, someone will need to speak directly to the individual in question. In some circumstances, you may be able to offer them a new contract whereby they work remotely, keeping them within the business whilst at arm’s length from the team. 

You can also help to motivate your team members by supporting them with stress management services or seminars. However, you may be at the point where you need to remove the toxic employee from your company. 

Managing a toxic employee in an external context 

The first thing we suggest that you do is to engage with a lawyer who specialises in employment law, as this is a legal minefield. We cannot offer advice on the legal aspects of this issue, but this is how you might best deal with these employees during this process. 

Disclaimer: Don’t try this at home! You need to have solid HR legal advice to ensure that you are ahead of the game and are within your legal rights and boundaries to act.

With these individuals, you should attempt to reach some sort of agreement. This could involve offering them a redundancy package whereby you pay several months’ wages in exchange for their exit from the business. You may also be within your rights to put these employees on garden leave, which is when you pay employees for their notice period, but they are not permitted to come into the office or work for this period of time. 

Final thoughts on removing a toxic employee from your business

Please remember that it is much better to invest money in this process to get them out of the organisation than to continue to suffer the negative financial, personal or psychological abuse of a toxic member of staff. There will likely be many more prospective employees who would love to fill the toxic employee’s position and would do so with grace, enthusiasm and most importantly, respect.

It can be a difficult decision to make, but we would always advise you to invest in the holistic improvement of your business to maintain a productive, contented and ethical work environment. 

If you would like to receive more advice on business practice and employee management, get in touch with our professional team of financial and management consultants to discover how you can develop and grow your business. 

Leave a Reply