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Letting go of a toxic employee, even if they’re a top performer

Hiring Advice

Toxic employees have a negative impact on your team. They can disrupt team dynamics, lower morale, hurt productivity, increase turnover and disrupt company culture. But what if that toxic employee is a top performer? While the toxic employee may bring value and revenue to your organization, the damage created does not justify keeping them.  By the time you consider letting your high performing, toxic employee go, you’ve probably had many conversations with them about their behavior and likely created an action plan for improvement.  If the person isn’t willing to change their behavior, or incapable of doing so, it’s time to sever ties. This is especially true when this person is long tenured. Don’t be afraid to take action.

Once the toxic person is removed, expect to see a remarkably quick increase in morale and productivity across the team and business.  Expect to see other team members step up and pick up the responsibilities or contribute to the revenue previously generated by that person.  If the person was in a customer facing position, you may find that your customers are happy to continue to work with your organization and learn that the person strained relationships with your customers they had no idea about.

A company we represent experienced this exact scenario.  Worried they would lose significant revenue if they let their top salesperson go, they kept them for years beyond when they should. When they finally let the person go, several things happened:

  • They learned that the salesperson’s customers weren’t happy either. The company has since grown business with those customers and regained lost customers.
  • They didn’t lose any revenue!
  • Their culture improved immediately across the team.
  • Several employees were excited to step up and took on more responsibility.
  • The company saw more creativity and ideas being brought to the table. Their ideas were no longer being stifled by the toxic employee.

If you have an employee that is displaying questionable ethics, has a genuine lack of enthusiasm, causes frustration across the business and creates resentment from their peers, it’s likely time to make a change.