Have You Ever Had to Deal With a Toxic Employee, Manager or Colleague?
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Have You Ever Had to Deal With a Toxic Employee, Manager or Colleague?

Talent Management

Have You Ever Had to Deal With a Toxic Employee, Manager or Colleague?

September 15, 2015 Kyle Bolster

I have, and the negative experience permeated in all areas of a previously, very productive team. The lasting effect of this toxic person, was a pervasive environment of distrust, that lingered even after the toxic employee had moved on. To this day, I am not entirely sure how long it will take, or what sort of staff turnover is required to thoroughly eradicate the trust issues caused by this person. It was devastating to say the least

But this was one employee on a large corporate team, with corporate HR support. Now imagine, if you will, the same level of impact such toxicity would have on a small and close-knit team, in a small business. It could be fatal. In a smaller, more resource constrained business; every employee has a core role to play and a duty to collaborate with their fellow staff members.  What’s more, a great number of these staff will be customer facing.  As a result, the occurrence of staff toxicity in this exposed environment will have grave effects on both internal and external company relations; it needs to be identified and remedied immediately to minimise the damage. 

Toxicity in any organisation is contagious and quickly spreads to your good employees. What’s more, these employees are a lot more likely than the toxic staff members to seek alternative employment. After all they are good at their job and can easily transfer to a company with a positive working environment. If toxicity is destructive in the larger corporate environment, it is lethal in the smaller business. 

At this point you may be asking, how do I identify the toxic employee?  This is the person on your team who:

  1. Has no self awareness
  2. Spends more time looking busy than producing results
  3. Blames everyone else
  4. Is creative in drawing colleagues and leaders into games
  5. Does not do what they say they will do
  6. Is negative about everything but never offers suggestions
  7. Actively backstabs

Ironically, in the smaller business in Australia and New Zealand, it is rare to find any formal processes to manage talent, and more importantly, identify toxicity issues and formally remedy them. In the smaller business, talent management is a “nice to have” process which is infrequently resourced or even documented.  At the same time, employment law in Australia and New Zealand is prescriptive and formal, and strict adherence to process is critical for a business of any size.  Any ANZ business needs to have their “ducks in a row” to actively and officially manage their people, in terms of interaction and documentation.  Otherwise they are vulnerable to legal action when dealing with employment actions. 

You might think talent management is an expensive process but with cloud-based talent management applications, a smaller business can ill afford not to build this process into their ongoing strategy.

Cornerstone OnDemand has published some interesting data on the Toxic Employee.  Download it here for more insights.



About Kyle Bolster

Kyle Bolster is the Director of Sales for Cornerstone’s Growth Edition division, focused on providing cloud based HR technology solutions to small and medium Enterprise. Born in the USA (Boston, MA), Kyle relocated to Auckland with his Kiwi wife Olivia and 2... more


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