How to identify toxic employees

Toxic employees are those who bring the team down. They’re the ones who make the normally rational and sensible members of staff into antagonistic idiots who start seeing criticism in every word uttered by management. You won’t always notice them to begin with as these guys know how to get work but don’t know how to keep it. If you notice disharmony in a team that used to work well together, you’ll need to weed out the toxic employee.


You’ll notice the following happening in your team if you have a rotten apple within the group.

  • There will be a decrease in productivity
  • Morale will suffer
  • There will be more arguments among staff
  • A feeling of frustration will form within the team
  • A negative attitude towards management will appear
  • Personal attacks and negative comments will increase
  • The team will become unwilling to go the extra mile
  • The normally placid and helpful workers become difficult to deal with

How to identify toxic employees

You’ll need to speak to supervisors and employees within the team to work out who’s causing the issues. You’ll have an idea of who’s at the root of this situation but be careful not to make this into a witch-hunt. You’ll need to look at the employee’s work to see if it’s being completed in time and to the standards you expect. After this “due-diligence” you’ll see patterns appearing that will suggest whether the toxic employee is having an adverse effect on the whole team or one or two individuals.

What should you do

There are a number of things you can do once you’ve worked out who’s causing the team’s issues, but you have to be careful that you don’t overstep the line. You obviously need to approach the worker but don’t jump in with accusations. Keep the meeting general in tone and non-confrontational to begin with. This should be similar to a job interview in that it's casual but official. You won’t need to present the worker with any evidence immediately. You’re giving the toxic employee a chance to change his ways. Of course, if this informal chat doesn’t work out, consult your HR department who will give you a rundown of the firm’s disciplinary procedure.

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