The Toxic Employee And Your Bottom Line

The Toxic Employee & Your Bottom Line

Overt or Subtle

Toxic employees can be a big problem for small business. The very nature of owning a business requires depending on and trusting employees. Sometimes, it means depending on them…to a fault, causing an owner to overlook something like toxic and destructive behavior.

Things like office drama, temper tantrums, and taking advantage of the employer are obvious; but others are more subtle. Things like snide remarks made in passing; or  delegating only grunt work to one employee and giving more prestigious assignments to friends.

The Last to Know

Owners are often the last to know there’s a problem. They’re emotionally invested in the business and focused on the bottom line; not necessarily on the people problems. Besides, toxic employees always find a way to ‘look good’ to the owner. Right? It’s like they can be perfect when they need to be, yet have a passive aggressive side that ruins the entire corporate culture!

And of course no one wants to be a complainer. It feels childish or trivial to complain about a co-worker’s behavior. I’ve had clients come to me after leaving their job…jobs that they liked…all because of a toxic co-worker. And that’s sad, because, it’s an issue that could be fixed.


Once an owner is made aware of a problem, the initial reaction is often denial. I mean, who would want to admit that a trusted employee is undermining their success?  I hear owners say things like “I know this employee is difficult, it’s just his way” or  “He/She has been with me since the beginning, I couldn’t possibly fire him/her.”

It feels like a catch 22. The owner is concerned about the knowledge the employee holds, the loyalty they feel toward the employee and the time and cost involved in replacing the employee. All valid concerns. But, those concerns cause some owners to convince themselves that there’s not a real problem.

The Real Cost

But, there’s a real cost to this denial. Poor office morale, reduced productivity, and losing good employees, can all be the result of just one toxic person. Not to mention the reputation of the employer as staff members leave and share their horror stories of working in that environment.

No matter how hard it is to replace an employee who holds a lot of company knowledge; knowledge that’s hard to replace, it’s often necessary.

A Difficult Path

The path to a peaceful work environment is often a difficult path. It involves taking a good look at what is happening and making the choice to change it. The result is a work environment where employees are valued and eager to do a good job. An environment that allows people to grow and thrive and an environment where the owner is respected by employees.

It is a path that is worth the effort.


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