Managing Toxic & Other Employees Who Have Attitude Issues


Date: April 14, 2023 | Time: 01:00 PM (ET)
Duration: 60 Minutes | Speaker: Pete Tosh
Certification: SHRM & HRCI Credit – 1.0

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Clever toxic employees:

  • Utilize their technical expertise to intimidate and manipulate
  • Know who to flatter and who they can abuse
  • Turn their toxicity on and off depending on the impression they want to make

Unfortunately, organizations can work against themselves and even promote toxicity by:

  • Restructuring his/her job to accommodate a toxic employee
  • Tolerating toxic employees who have valued expertise
  • Not assertively seeking employee feedback as to whether there is toxic behavior in the workplace
  • Not communicating to all employees the specific interpersonal behaviors that will not be tolerated – with the associated consequences


Managers sometimes attempt to fix this type of problem by addressing a toxic employee's attitude. And while a toxic employee's attitude certainly affects his/her behavior, managers usually find that controlling an employee's attitude is next to impossible.


Managers can be much more effective by:

  • Discuss the specific behaviors that are negatively impacting other employees and/or the organization
  • Using positive and negative consequences to influence that behavior


Areas Covered

I. Human and Financial Costs Resulting from Toxic Employees, Toxic Employees create:

  • Chaos and unnecessary complexity
  • Overt damage
  • Covert damage
  • Strife, stress and emotional damage
  • Productivity, quality and financial losses

II. The A, B, C’s Related to Toxic Employees

  • Employee attitudes
  • Employee behaviors
  • Consequences that managers can exert

III. The Psyche of a Toxic Employee

  • Frequently seen toxic behaviors
  • Utilize ‘star status’ and technical expertise to intimidate and manipulate
  • Chameleon, who knows who to flatter and who he/she can abuse
  • Turn their toxicity on and off depending on the impression they want to make
  • Three common forms of toxic behavior

IV. Common Reactions to Toxic Employees That Frequently Don’t Work

  • Restructuring his/her job to accommodate the toxic employee
  • Tolerating toxic employees who bring rare expertise or experience
  • Not assertively seeking feedback from employees as to whether there is toxic behavior in the workplace
  • Not communicating to all employees the specific behaviors that will not be tolerated – with associated consequences

V. Effective Approaches for Addressing and Preventing Toxicity

  • Organization-wide strategies:

        - Making positive interpersonal behavior an organizational value
        - Evaluating interpersonal behavior as a part of the performance appraisal system
        - Training leaders in how to address toxic behavior
        - Using behavioral-based interview questions to screen toxic applicants
        - Exit interviewing to identify any toxic behavior in the workplace

  • Departmental and team strategies:

- Defining appropriate interpersonal interactions with behavior-specific descriptions and standards
- Using team discussions and role plays to clarify the application of the behavioral descriptions and standards


- Utilizing a 360-degree feedback process to assess the work environment

  • One-on-one strategies:

        - Stating explicitly that the behavior is not acceptable and why
        - Describing both the unacceptable and acceptable behavior
        - Asking the employee to commit to and describe how he/she will change his/her behavior
        - Frequent, targeted counseling feedback
        - Executive coaches
        - Progressive discipline
        -  Termination


But even terminations are not a cure-all because the:

  • Toxic-enabling people and organizational culture tendencies may remain
  • Employees may still be resentful of the way they were treated by the employee and the time it took the organization to react
  • Expertise and experience of the toxic employee are lost


Why Should You Attend

Most organizations have employees who on occasion:

  • Complain and gossip excessively
  • Use inappropriate language
  • Are mildly insubordinate

But Toxic Employees have interpersonal styles that demonstrate a pattern of counter-productive work behaviors. Emotionally Intelligent employees are aware of their feelings and those of others, exhibit a pattern of appropriate self-management.


The toxic employee problem is surprisingly prevalent, with research showing:

  • 95% of employees have and 64% are currently working with a toxic employee
  • 50% of employees have thought of quitting and 12% did because of a toxic employee
  • 25% of employees have reduced their work effort due to a toxic employee
  • 20% of employees feel they are a target weekly and 10% of employees see toxic behavior daily
  • Toxic employees cause significant overt, covert, people-related and financial damage, with their visible

behavior just being the tip of the iceberg. For example, in one organization, the day a former employee left the organization is considered one of their annual holidays

Ask your question directly from our expert during the Q&A session following the live event.


Pete Tosh

Pete Tosh is the Founder of The Focus Group, a management consulting and training firm that assists organizations in sustaining profitable growth through four core disciplines:

     ·      Implementing Strategic HR Initiatives
·     Maximizing Leadership Effectiveness
·     Strategic Planning
·     Enhancing Customer Loyalty

The Focus Group has provided these consulting and training services to manufacturing and service organizations across the U.S., Canada, Europe, and the Middle East. Pete has worked closely with the leadership teams of organizations such as Exxon, Brinks, EMC, State Farm, Marriott, N.C.I. YKK and Freddie Mac

Prior to founding his own firm 25 years ago, Pete had 15 years of experience — at the divisional and corporate levels — in Human Resource and Quality functions. Pete held leadership positions — to include the V.P. of Human Resources and Quality — with Allied Signal, Imperial Chemical Industries, Reynolds Metals, Charter Medical, and Access Integrated Networks.

Pete holds a B.A. degree in Psychology from Emory and Henry College and a Master’s degree in both Business Administration and Industrial Psychology from Virginia Commonwealth University. Pete is also co-author of Leading Your Organization to the Next Level: the Core Disciplines of Sustained Profitable Growth.


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