3 Reasons You Need to Fire the Toxic Employee

Posted on August 17, 2013.

I had breakfast the other day with a former colleague who’s now managing his own team.  He asked me. “What do you do when you really don’t like one of your employees?” When asked why, he simply stated, “He treats people horribly and brings down the whole office.” I simply said, “You need to fire him”.

If you can go through your whole career and never come across this kind of toxic personality, more power to you. But the reality is that most of us have either had a toxic boss or co-worker at some point in our working life. 

Toxic people are often high performers so getting rid of them is not easy.  Also, if you’ve read one of my earlier blogs, you know that people like this never quit. In this same blog, I walk you through the steps that can help you remove the person. Unfortunately, most managers end up either transferring the problem to someone else through the guise of a promotion or similar opportunity or they bury their heads in the sand and hope the problem goes away. It won’t! Short of an intervention and intense therapy, I’ve yet to see this type of person be transformed into employee of the year.

I can’t speak to the difficulty you may have if you work for the government or a union, but for all other companies, you can and should fire your toxic employee for the following reasons:

1.     Toxic employees are often bullies.  People that just show up in a bad mood but keep to themselves aren’t necessarily toxic. But when someone publically berates another, brings someone to tears or creates fear in the office, these are all signs of bullying and there should be zero tolerance for bullying anywhere.

2.    Morale and productivity will increase. Trust me when I tell you the minute your toxic employee is gone, at least one or more of your other direct reports will be in your office expressing their relief.  It’s like a black cloud was lifted and by improving morale, you improve employee engagement, which results in higher productivity.

3.    Your turnover will be reduced.  The people that come in and do their job and never complain are the ones that are at the highest risk of leaving. It’s like they’ve already divested themselves emotionally so they can make the move.  And they will rarely be honest about the reason they’re leaving citing a “better opportunity”. But the reality is most people quit because they no longer feel they can be successful and a toxic environment can make anyone feel that way. Once you’ve removed the cancer, you’ll be surprised at how much your unplanned turnover is reduced.

I’ve worked for, worked with and managed toxic people. They were almost all top performers so I understand first hand the challenges of even wanting to get rid of him or her.  You rationalize that you won’t be able to find someone who can produce as much.  But when you think about it, elevating the whole team’s productivity should more than make up for losing one bad seed.  Stop making excuses, and start documenting.