The Impact of Toxic Employees


You have you ever had a staff member that made you feel like they’re holding you hostage?  You’d rather move them on but you feel like you can’t?

If that’s ever happened to you, I’m going to share with you some strategies to identify who these people are, what to do about it, and help illuminate what the cost of them staying in your business is.

And I don’t necessarily mean that they’re a bad person, they’re probably really good at what they do, but they’re not a good fit for the culture of your company, or they’re not a team player or they may be pressing buttons and pushing boundaries because they know that they can get away with it, because they’ve got a great skill set.

Have you got person like that in your mind?  You ever encountered somebody like that?

The challenge with these folks is that we don’t want to let them go because they’re really good at what they do but, the other challenge is, they don’t get along with everybody else.

I want to share a little strategy with you on how to identify and deal with people like this.

Draw a little grid here.  A 2×2 grid and on the bottom axis is “Attitude”.

And on the left-hand side is “not so good attitude” and the right-hand side is “good attitude” and at the vertical axis we have “Skill” and at the lower end is “not that great of a skill” and at the top is “great skill”.

So the question is: where do we put our A players?

How do we quantify an A player in our organization?  We would like to think they have a great attitude and great skill.  So that’s going to be on the top right corner of of the grid.

Now where do we put our D players?

The D players are the ones that probably they’re a hiring mistake, we should probably release them to “pursue success elsewhere.”  We shouldn’t have brought them on the first place.  It’s pretty easy to see that they’re going to be the low skill, low attitude, or poor attitude so that’s going to be the bottom left square.

Now it gets tricky.  Where do we put our B players?

Some business owners when I ask them this question they say “well they have to have a good skill to be a B” so I could put them at the top left.  I’d say put them at the bottom right, because they have a great attitude, they may have some skill but they haven’t developed all the skill they need to be an A player. 

And that leaves our C players at the top left.

That means that they have the great skill but maybe their attitude is not where it needs to be.

So the question is what happens if we keep C players in our organization?

And guess what?  Most people most business owners do because they’re difficult to get rid of because they have that high skill set.  And we’re afraid to let them go because we fear “what’s going to happen? Who’s going to backfill for their skillset and ability?”

But what happens is this – imagine if you put an A player and a C player together.  The C players has not got a great attitude, they’re pressing buttons, they’re taking advantage a little bit and they’re pushing these boundaries.

Well the A player, they’re doing a great job great attitude and they’re playing by the rules and they see the C player not doing the same thing.

They’re getting great results but they’re not playing by the same rule book as the A player is. With prolonged exposure, that A player may start to morph into a C.

That attitude of entitlement or pushing the boundaries and getting away with things can be infectious.  So if you let a C player continue like that you have the possibility to have an A player affected negatively.

Now the thing is, you can shift people’s attitude down but it’s more difficult to shift someone’s attitude to the positive, which is why most C players never want to get better in terms of attitude.  They don’t think they’ve got a problem.

And they may not. Probably it’s just not a really good fit for your organization. So we want to make sure that we don’t keep our C players on because they impact our A players which is really bad.

Now guess what happens if you have a C player that’s coupled up with a B player?

The B player, remember they have a great attitude but they don’t have all the skill that they need to really excel in their role.

If they hang around with the C player they’re going to start to have an attitude change as well which means that B player is going to morph over into a D.

Now we have a real problem.  We have fewer Bs, we have more Ds, and we’re going to have some turnover issues productivity issues as well.

Conversely if you have a B player that’s hanging out with an A player, another person with a great attitude they probably going to want to mentor them and help them out a little bit and the B player wants to get better because they have that great attitude.

So if we pair up a B and an A, the B is going to get better.

If we pair either an A or B with a C, or they’re exposed to them in the organization, their attitudes are going to shift to the negative and now we have a real challenge.

I hope this tool has been helpful for you in terms of being able to determine “who do we have on our team? Who are the A B and C players? 

And what you need to realize as well, is that when you let that C player go, because you realize they’re truly not a fit,  the A players and B players are probably going to come up and thank you for it because they’ve been exposed as negativity and the poor attitude and they going to wonder what took you so long to get rid of them.

I’d love to see your comments below let us know what you think about dealing with challenging team members.


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