November 18, 2017
When Employees Become Toxic


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When Employees Become Toxic

| 5/24/2017

Most CEOs acknowledge the true success of a company comes from a careful blend of team members with a variety of skills, work styles and perspectives. However, when one of those team members become difficult, that productive tonic becomes toxic.

Whether it’s being chronically late, constantly complaining or accusing others, spreading gossip or low quality work standards, some employees can bring more harm than good to the workplace. Then, there are employees who may have a valuable skill that is difficult to replace but makes the work environment miserable with attitude issues. It requires attention, discipline and strong leadership to manage these situations to protect other team members and the company.

When a team member becomes toxic, remember these tips:

Be Attentive – Sticking your head in the sand doesn’t help. Use the probationary period of employment to closely examine quality of work and fit with the team. Quickly provide a performance improvement plan for any deficiencies and document progress carefully. Don’t allow the need to fill a position to cause you to ignore potential problems.

“Dealing with difficult employees is an unenviable task that must be done. Like a contagious disease diagnosed early, productive teams have the best chance of surviving and thriving when there is an antidote for the toxic employee.”

— Paul O. Lopez

Be Proactive – When an employee lodges a complaint, it may seem easier to have a meeting to resolve the issue and move on. However, without proper documentation of a meeting, it’s as if it never occurred. Any complaint needs to be documented, investigated and a documented plan for resolution must be in place with documentation of the follow-through. Issues not dealt with formally can become a lethal toxin spreading throughout the workplace.

Be Consistent – There will always be team members who are easier to manage, who get along with coworkers better. The natural instinct is to turn a blind eye or easily extend grace with any of their shortcomings. That is a recipe for disaster. The first to notice the inconsistency will most likely be the difficult employee who has been repeatedly disciplined for a similar action. The inconsistency can be viewed as prejudice and/or discrimination lawsuits.

Always remember there is a delicate balance between discipline and coaching. All employees need room to grow and improve in an atmosphere of encouragement. Set expectations up front that perfect scores are rarely given numerically, but robust comments can clearly paint the picture of an employee’s contributions.

About the Author Paul O. Lopez, a director and the chief operating officer for Tripp Scott, has chaired the firm’s Litigation Department since 2010. Lopez has a national litigation and trial practice and regularly argues before federal and state courts on behalf of his various nationwide and local clients. He has successfully litigated and tried numerous high-exposure jury and non-jury trials in both federal and state court throughout his career and has developed a reputation for being one of South Florida’s best trial lawyers and litigators.

For more than 40 years, Tripp Scott has played a role in advising clients on practices to protect their organizations. This information is shared as insight for avoiding and resolving challenging employee issues.

Tripp Scott Law Firm

Fort Lauderdale • Boca Raton • Tallahassee
954.525.7500 •


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