When you hire an employee and expect excellence, nothing is more disappointing than to
discover that you have hired a toxic person onto your team. Yet, more often, we find that
people don’t hire toxic people — they inherit them. Why is that? It is because toxic people are
incredibly hard to confront, more or less, to terminate. What is a good manager to do? Below I will share Lion Leadership’s advice on what to do if and, more likely when you find yourself in
#1 = Document, document, document
We recommend using OneNote or EverNote or Word to make a file of documentation. Every
single moment where you sense your target is not fitting your organizational values, or is going
outside the borders of professionalism, or has merely just given you the ‘uh-oh’ feeling, this is
the time to document, document, document. You should detail the objective explanation of the
event at hand as well as your subjective understanding of the event. Then, you should
document how it is a ‘rub’ against what you feel is important in a quality employee. Include the
actual email chain, PPT presentation, or whatever material evidence you have. Include any
complaints on the situation you have received. Include, specifically, how and why the action
goes against your organizational values if applicable (most times it is). Date your
documentation. Send it to yourself in an email to confirm a date stamp. You need to build a
case of a behavioral PATTERN.
#2 = Address poor behavior, immediately, and always
As soon as something has come up, you need to address it. Best case scenario you have a
weekly 1-on-1 arranged and can tackle the issue during that if not sooner. In our practice at
Lion Leadership, we find managers often don’t have the skills in conflict communication to
handle this effectively. And, quite honestly, this is where we find the train going off the
proverbial track. You must TELL the person that they are misbehaving and WHY. We often
advise clients to “over-communicate-the-obvious” because what is obvious to a manager is
often not obvious to a direct report.
#3 = Never, ever kick the can down the road.
Most managers don’t follow through on our #2 piece of advice. Worse, we watch clients as they
‘kick-the-can’ down the road on disciplining poor behavior. Why? No one wants a contentious
conversation. And, trust us, with a toxic employee, it will be contentious. Yet, whether you
know if or not, this is the most important task on your desk. Not taking immediate action will
likely cost you the respect of other hard-workers on your team. Also, not taking immediate
action will likely cost you attrition of multiple team members, which undoubtedly will lead to
You need to exit toxic employees as soon as possible. And you cannot do this without
documentation of a pattern of behavior nor without documentation of having addressed it
multiple times. This is a hard situation undoubtedly. Yet this is the job of management. It is
important that you do it well.
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Lion Leadership is a company of coaches, consultants, speakers, and facilitators dedicated to creating strong leaders and ambitiously self-sustaining companies through best-in-class coaching, management training, process optimization, and retreat facilitation so that businesses and leaders can be ready for what’s next.
Natasha Ganem, Ph.D., is founder and principal consultant.
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