Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

Tips to Prevent or, if Necessary, Eliminate Employee Toxicity


Here are 13 strategies.


From time to time, nearly every boss has to cope with an employee’s negativity.

That’s annoying enough, but you’ve got a nightmare if toxic attitudes spread among the rest of your workers.

It might surprise you to learn you’re likely part of the problem.

For example, managers must do their best to make sure employees don’t get complacent.

Motivation for performance is important. So is making certain to take every precaution to maintain high morale.

Ideally, you’ve got the right antennae for spotting negativity before it spreads.

However, if negativity spreads you shouldn’t panic in the face of unacceptable behavior. Don’t give away your power. Confront such employees.

Here are 13 strategies to prevent or eliminate negativity:

  1. Listen to your negative employees, but keep a positive attitude. Don’t allow them to adversely affect your optimism.
  2. As you engage negative workers, remember it’s never OK to show anger. Stay cool. To use a metaphor, float like a butterfly.

If you start arguing with negative employees, you’ll be giving away your power and fueling their hostility. So don’t get into arguments.

Put a stop to employees ragging on you by asking the question: “Is there anything else?” That’s almost always a good way to stop negative people in their tracks.

Try to keep a good relationship by stressing areas of agreement.

  1. Focus on performance not negative attitudes. You might not be able to persuade toxic employees, but you can do something positive about their performance.

So stay current in evaluating their performance. Discipline them when and where are appropriate. That includes disciplining them if they don’t adhere to company policy.

  1. Consider techniques to evaluate employee attitudes, and to open the eyes of toxic workers by involving them in processes. For instance, you can try a one-on-one role-playing exercise.

One exercise might be to have employees try to consider the role of a manager – to “walk a mile in your moccasins.” Cite specific problems and solicit the best-possible ideas.

This is a good way to get good ideas.

It will also help you to determine whether such employees have a conscience to do the right thing for your workplace culture. This will also provide clues on whether they have potential to be redeemable.

  1. Focus on your listening habits and skills. Listen carefully. That means being an active listener to make certain you fully understand your employees.

You’ll be able to determine if they’re actually right in their criticisms. You’ll also better understand the attitudes so you can analyze them and take the right approaches in dealing with them.

  1. Don’t get defensive. Realize you just might be dealing with an efficiency expert who is right about policies and procedures, and who is actually a top performer but lacking in soft skills.

Explain to such employees how they might do a better job in offering constructive ideas to you. In such cases – what you hopefully have – are employees who are destined for greater things with your company.

  1. Correctly analyze your employees. You can do this through engagement and positive reinforcement. When an employee does well, recognize the performance to maximize chances for continued excellent behavior.

When they don’t perform well, explain what they must do for a better future performance.

  1. Before making major decisions and implementing policy, get employees’ input. If you consistently include your workers where feasible, you’ll lessen the probability of toxicity.
  2. Be realistic in your engagement with workers. Don’t reward bad behavior with unwarranted compliments.
  3. Show fairness by asking positive and negative workers to do tasks that are outside their typical day-to-day tasks.

In this way, you’ll be doing your best to increase the likelihood of positive attitudes and performance.

  1. Show courage. Don’t procrastinate from dealing with negative employees. Don’t be intimidated from correcting them less often than necessary.
  2. Finally, recruit and hire well for emotional intelligence (EI). In two ways, spot EI vis-à-vis negativity in applicants.

Firstly, ask the right open-ended questions:

  • “In terms of fairness or unfairness, when have you been treated fairly or unfairly?”
  • “What were your biggest concerns about management in your past employment?”
  • “What would you have changed in your last situation?”

Secondly, involve your employees who have high EI in the interview process. Get their feedback on applicants.

Start with your “director of first impressions.” Ask your receptionist for feedback on applicants walking in the door.

From the Coach’s Corner, here are related strategies:

Optimize Talent Management with 5 Coaching Culture Tips — When managers become coaches, you get a higher-performing workforce. You will have replaced mediocrity with strong performance. Here’s how to develop a coaching culture.

Habits of Leaders Who Have Positive Workplace Cultures — The Digital Age and global economy are demanding. Texting and emails are the norm. Face-to-face communication is minimal. This can hurt workplace cultures. Here’s what leaders do about it.

10 Talent-Recruitment Strategies that Lead to Business Profit — By developing strategic recruiting plans, human resources professionals will make significant contributions to the bottom-line profit goals of their employers. So, it’s imperative to innovate in your recruiting processes and market your strategies to senior management and hiring managers.

Risk Management in Hiring: Pre-Employment Screening Tips — Here are two questions about hiring: 1) what’s the biggest mistake companies make in hiring employees; and 2) what’s the biggest legal obstacle employers face in hiring? Here’s what to do about background screening.

How to Increase Conversion Rates of Online Job Applicants — Your business is not alone when it comes to the high costs incurred in the recruitment of job applicants online. Most job seekers get frustrated and quit in the middle of their online applications.

How to Rock Your Human Resources with Employee Referrals — Admittedly, there’s a myriad of ways to recruit great employees. But no recruitment option surpasses a well-executed, strategic employee-referral program.

HR Trends: 12 Ideal Perks for Recruiting Top Millennials — Welcome to the new world of employee recruitment as Millennials are replacing Baby Boomers. Work-life balance is the No. 1 priority for Millennials – ages 18 to 33 – especially those who are parents. Here’s how to recruit around the trend.

“When people are financially invested, they want a return. When people are emotionally invested, they want to contribute.”

-Simon Sinek


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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.




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Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.