How do you know it’s time?


By Mike Wood

Is it ever appropriate to fire a highly productive employee? The question itself may seem counterintuitive. Why would you ever want to let your best employee go? It may or may not come as a surprise that an employee can be technically excellent at their job while being drained in other areas as well.

A great but toxic employee can bring in money, but they can also dampen the spirits of other employees. Therefore, their high-quality job performance can be offset by their negative attitude.

The bottom line is that a toxic employee can kill your company.


Should you fire a great but negative employee?

Gary Vaynerchuk, the millionaire chairman of communications company VaynerX and author of #Ask GaryVee, definitely has an opinion about it. In regards to whether you should fire a toxic employee, he notes, “I don’t care if it’s your number one salesperson, your best f——— developer, or your co-founder. Cancer is spreading – and with cancer and politics comes a lack of speed.”

Vaynerchuk is committed to efficiency in the workplace. According to him, pessimism and negativity interrupt the course of events, as a result of which you may lose money.

In fact, a study published in the Harvard Business Review looked at the phenomenon of the “toxic worker” and their effect on company results. The researchers found that the company saves an average of $5,300 by keeping a productive employee around. But letting go of a toxic employee could save the company more than $12,000.

Identifying toxic workers

Clearly, removing toxic employees can improve both company culture and its financial value. But identifying those toxic workers isn’t always as easy as it sounds. It’s much easier to find problems in the behavior and personality of toxic employees who underperform. You can just look at their productivity and realize that maintaining their negative attitude has no net positive effect.

It’s much more difficult to identify toxic red flags in employees who are overperforming (or at least producing to your standards). After all, you can’t make a connection between their negativity and their job performance. You may also be more willing to sweep their behavior under the rug because their grades always look good.

The most obvious warning sign of toxic workplace behavior is a total reluctance to see the bright side of anything. Employees who complain every chance they get, blast new ideas, and drag down the optimism of a meeting are guaranteed to be toxic. Indeed, if you can’t hold a meeting without a certain employee chiming in with their pessimism or contrarian attitude, it may be time to take action.

Toxicity can also present itself in other ways, including:

  • Constantly worrying. Concern about a project or policy is fine. Openly worrying about any problem in the workplace can be contagious and lead to indecisiveness and a slower pace of work.
  • Lack of concern for others. If an employee isn’t concerned if his behavior disturbs a co-worker or even a customer, then he’s certainly not promoting the beneficial company culture you want.
  • Being rude in general. Like anyone else, good employees can be bullies. Public contempt of colleagues or passive aggressiveness towards them can create a hostile work environment.

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When to fire toxic employees

There are no hard and fast rules for firing toxic employees. In general, though, you probably want to bring your concerns to their attention before you just pull away and drop the axe. Employees who can show a tendency towards self-awareness and reflection are more likely to work on their toxicity.

Vaynerchuk suggests, “We are at the dawn of an era where emotional intelligence is about to become the most important trade.” Emotional intelligence is the ability to accurately identify your own emotions while approaching interpersonal communication with empathy and foresight.

Before firing someone, it’s good to sit them down and tell them that their behavior and attitude are having a negative impact on the work environment. Their response to that criticism should determine your next step. People with high emotional intelligence are more likely to seriously work on their attitude.

In some cases, the employee in question was unaware that he was bringing drama or strife to the workplace. They may be involved in a personal problem, such as a health condition or divorce, and their toxic behavior may have been just a temporary setback.

If an employee is unwilling or otherwise unable to work on their negativity, dismissal should be an option. Some employees remain negative no matter how much counseling or mentoring they receive.

As Vaynerchuk says, a toxic attitude can be like cancer. It will spread if you let it perpetuate, and before you know it, you’ve got a whole company culture full of negativity and pessimism.

Prevent toxic workers in the future

The best way to avoid having toxic employees in your company is to simply not hire them. It’s important to prioritize emotional intelligence as much as any skill related to a potential employee’s actual job description.

It’s also important to spend one-on-one time with all of your employees to find out what they want in a workplace and how to make it better for them. If you want your culture to be positive, inviting, passionate, and thoughtful, then you have to work at it. And sometimes you will have to trim the fat to achieve that goal.

About the author

Mike Wood is an online marketer, author, and Wikipedia expert. He is the founder of Legalmorning. com, an online marketing agency specializing in content writing, brand management, and professional editing of Wikipedia. Wood is the author of the books Link juice And Wikipedia as a marketing tool.

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