At some point in our career most of us have worked with a toxic staff member. And if you’ve had that misfortune you are well and truly aware of the damage just one person can cause when it comes to culture and morale in a business.

But what should the business leader do if there’s a toxic staff member in their ranks? Well, in short, you can never just turn a blind eye

Here’s an insight into the legacy of toxic staff members and the steps a business leader should take to address their behavior.

What is a toxic staff member?

The toxic staff member can come in a number of guises. They might be the person who constantly moans about everything…absolutely everything.

They might also be someone who quietly undermines other staff members or perhaps takes credit for achievements which are not theirs to claim.

They might consistently behave badly, yelling at others, blaming or even quietly bullying.

On the flipside, the toxic staff member might also be your best performer, but it’s their arrogance and indifference to others that has a lasting impact on your whole team.

However, make no mistake, if there’s a toxic staff member in your midst, the impacts can be long-lasting.

The effect of a toxic staff member

The impacts of a toxic staff member can be far reaching. Their attitude and behavior can seep into the morale of every member of your team.

Ultimately a toxic staff member can damage your company culture and their behaviour might directly cause other valued staff members to leave.

But how can you tell if you have a toxic staff member on your team?

How do you identify a toxic staff member?

Your other staff are the best clue as to whether there’s a toxic staff member in your midst. The signs might be subtle at first, with staff illustrating an unwillingness to work with that person.

It might be as simple as one person always being in the right place at the right time to take credit for a team’s achievements.

They might also be more overt, with other team members mentioning their behavior. That’s why it’s important to have an open-door policy in any business, so small team issues can be nipped in the bud, and less than desirable behavior can be swiftly addressed.

What do you do?

Toxicity in your staff ranks is something that cannot be ignored. After all the behaviour you walk past is the behaviour you accept.

The first step is to address that behaviour in the moment, by pulling the staff member aside and asking them what prompted their actions.

That includes taking an interest in how they are and what’s going on in their world.

This should be a private discussion, because in workplaces with a positive culture, a leader will ideally praise in public but question in private.

Then it’s about engaging the staff member and coming up with a strategy to change that behaviour -without judgement and with the belief that staff member is more than capable of better.

As part of this you could perhaps set a timeframe for actions that will address that behaviour as well, but the staff member needs to be a core part of that strategy as that indicates they recognise the behaviour that impacts others.

Sometimes toxicity needs to be cut loose

Occasionally, toxic behaviour is so ingrained that the best way to address a staff member’s actions is to cut that staff member loose.

After all, the impacts of a negative staff member have such widespread impacts that the cost to your culture, business and other staff members simply isn’t worth it.

Meanwhile, it’s critical for the culture of your entire team that negative behaviour needs to be seen to be addressed.

The final word

The final question to ask yourself as a leader, is ‘have you allowed a workplace where this type of behaviour is permissible?’ and that speaks to the core values of your culture and your hiring practices.

Toxic staff members can curb a business in a variety of ways. They can prohibit other staff members from shining, stop a team from performing at their best, and cost you real money in terms of staff churn and customer loyalty.

You can learn more about establishing a positive culture here, or alternatively learn about growing your business here.