5 Tactics for Managing Top Performers With Toxic Attitudes

By Jezabel Southard

Posted on September 24, 2015

Sometimes, employees with great attitudes turn in mediocre work – and employees with toxic attitudes turn in outstanding work.

The conventional advice for dealing with toxic employees is simple: “Just fire them!” But when the owner of the bad attitude is also one of your top producers or possesses a skill set found nowhere else in your company, “just fire them!” isn’t an option. Instead, you need to decide what to do about your toxic employee – and manage accordingly. Here are five tools for doing just that:

  1. Know your goal. “Dealing with our toxic employee” is your goal – but what does “deal” mean? First, clarify what it is you want to achieve. “I want to get rid of this person, but still complete this project or make our sales numbers” is one option; “I want to keep this person, but get them to work better with others” is another. Decide what you want, then start planning how to get it.
  2. Ask, “How did we get here?” Toxic top employees can be problematic, but they don’t become a crisis overnight. Take some time to consider the chain of events that led to the current situation. Has management looked the other way regarding the employee’s attitude – and if so, why? Are you ready to say “you’re fired,” but upper management is standing in the way? Consider how you and the other members of the team are responding to the toxic person. Could you have addressed the problem sooner? How are team members working around the toxic employee? What is the effect on their performance?
  3. Create a strategy. If your instinct tells you to keep the employee, consider whether the employee is able and willing to learn. Many toxic individuals are stuck in their own patterns; when challenged directly, they become stubborn or arrogant. If the person is willing to learn, make sure the resources are available and the cost-benefit analysis is worth it: Will helping this person change pay off?
  4. Approach senior decision makers strategically. If you decide the toxic employee has to go, ask some strategic questions as you consult with senior staff. For instance, ask for clarification on where the damage from toxic behavior outweighs the revenue benefits when it comes to this employee. How will firing this person affect the rest of the staff? Can we absorb the costs of firing this person, and if so, how? What happens if this person goes to work for our competition?
  5. Seek an outside perspective. Senior staff are essential members of the decision-making process. For additional information that can help you decide whether to teach or fire, talk to your staffing partner. Your staffing firm can help you estimate how difficult replacing the toxic staff member’s skill set will be, and if termination is required, your staffing firm can help you reduce the costs of finding a new team member.

At TERRA Staffing, our recruiters can help you find the people you need to flourish in a competitive market. Find one our branches today to learn more about our staffing services in Seattle, Portland and Phoenix.

Categories: Employee Development, Employee Engagement Ideas

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