You Have a Toxic Employee: What’s Your Next Move?



Toxic employees get under our skin. As one person said in our mega research study: “The day this person left our company is considered an annual holiday!”  Toxic people further erode team performanceand the financial worth of any organization—banks and credit unions are no exception! As clever chameleons, they often “knock down but kiss up.” In writing my latest book, Why I Don’t Work Here Anymore: A Leaders’ Guide to Offset the Financial and Emotional Costs of Toxic Employees, I  examined hundreds of frustrating client dilemmas associated with toxic personalities and was struck by one in particular that surfaced to the top more than any other: While I understand the personal and team angst toxic people cause, is there any way to calculate what they cost financially?  Answer: Yes! Before examining their financial cost, let’s first study who are toxic people.

Who Are Toxic People?

In anational study I conducted with Dr. Elizabeth Holloway, a whopping 94% of 400-plus leaders reported working with a toxic person within the past five years; 64% reported they currently do. Dealing with the damagethey cause is painful; 92% said the toxicity ranged from 7 to 10, on 10-point scale.

Figure 1. Percentage who reported working with a toxic person in the past five years (Kusy and Holloway, Toxic Workplace, 2009).

kusyFigure 2. The range of toxicity in which 92% rated the toxic level as 7 to 10 on a 10-point scale (Kusy and Holloway, Toxic Workplace, 2009).


Toxic people engage in a pattern of counter-productive behaviors of three types—shaming, passive hostility, and / or team sabotage (Figure 3). Those who shame do so one-on-one or in public. They humiliate, take “pot shots,” use sarcasm to belittle, and take relish in pointing out the mistakes of others. Passively hostile people use anger to get back at others in subtle ways—sometimes with a smile on their faces. Those who sabotage often take delight in creating havoc in people’s lives by negatively influencing the work of others, needless meddling, and using authority to punish.

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