Toxic Employees On Your Team

Toxic Employees On Your Team

External challenges like economic change and the rise and fall of trends will always impact business owners and the success of their companies, but what should leaders do when they are confronted with internal challenges? What are business owners supposed to do when the problem is within their own team?

Distrust, confusion, and uncertainty amongst your team members can result in reduced productivity, seriously impacting not only the overall morale of your team but the success of your company, too. The cause? Oftentimes, a toxic team member.

At Incipio Workforce Solutions, we work with business owners and their teams to help them develop deep connections, teamwork, and trust that help to fuel the growth of their business. Here, we’ll be sharing a few pieces of advice regarding toxic employees, and how you can work to shift the negative impact they have made to create a more positive, more united workplace.

What ‘Toxic’ Means

When we refer to a ‘toxic employee’, we are talking about someone that has planted seeds of doubt within your team. Toxic employees are sometimes conscious of the impact they have on their colleagues, and other times have no idea that their behavior may be having an effect on the workplace. Toxic employees often undermine the positivity or productivity of the workplace, putting thoughts of self-doubt and disinterest in the minds of their fellow employees.

Here are a few examples of toxicity in action in the workplace:

  • Toxic employees may spread rumors regarding the personal or professional lives of their colleagues

  • Toxic employees will often be the first to play “Devil’s advocate” or to point out why a newly laid plan won’t work

  • Toxic employees can often be found complaining about working conditions, hours, scheduling, and other administrative issues during times when others are diligently working

  • Toxic employees may downplay the success of their colleagues and the company at large

  • Toxic employees may complain excessively about specific or general issues, and work to recruit others to the same mindset

Oddly enough, a toxic employee is not necessarily one who is purposefully trying to disrupt the workplace. While some toxic individuals may strive to cause problems for you and your business, the majority are struggling themselves to feel motivated, and have naturally fallen into negative and toxic patterns.

The Impact of Workplace Toxicity

Even a single voice of negativity can have a major impact on the overall success of your business, which is why it is super important to know the signs of workplace toxicity in order to quickly address the symptoms when they occur. If you have noticed changes to your team, take a moment to assess them for some of the following symptoms of workplace toxicity:


Complaints from one or more employees to other members of the team regarding management styles, vacation policies, and similarly knit-picky problems are a surefire way to create uncertainty within a team. Questioning the leadership or knowledge of a company is a great way to make people feel uneasy, making others concerned for their financial security, their place in the company, and so on.


Uncertainty makes people feel uneasy, and if your employees are being given any reason to feel insecure in their positions, you will see it instantly in their level of engagement. Employees that are worried for their security or future within your company won’t be as closely focused on their work since they will likely be contemplating the next steps in order to find a more reliable environment.

If you notice employees beginning to lose interest in the work your company is doing or begin to question their roles, this is a good sign you have a toxic employee in your midst. Disengaged employees will miss deadlines, make simple/rookie mistakes, cause delays, show up late or leave early, or otherwise show a seeming lack of interest in doing their job correctly.


The ultimate consequence of having a toxic employee infiltrate your team is that your business will eventually become stagnant. Without dedicated, engaged, enthusiastic employees, your company won’t continue to grow, and you won’t be able to achieve those goals you originally set out to reach. If you find your business no longer growing due to some kind of internal problem, it is important to address the situation quickly so as to prevalent lasting or long-term damage.

Identifying a Toxic Employee

Unfortunately a toxic employee is easy to overlook…

especially if you (the business owner) have taken on a primarily oversight or administrative role. Toxic behavior is often only displayed out of sight or away from management, either purposefully or accidentally. Many individuals have the instinct to act more cheerful or optimistic than they truly are when confronted by an authority figure, just one of the reasons workplace toxicity can go unnoticed by upper-level management for years even in smaller companies.

The best remedy is to avoid workplace toxicity from occurring to begin with, which requires dedicated and close employee management in order to detect shifts in morale or success. If you do suspect that a member of your team is planting seeds of negativity within the minds of your other employees, don’t despair! Toxic behavior doesn’t have to be permanent, and there are lots of ways you as a business owner can help your team get back on track.

How Incipio Fosters Team Building

When it really gets down to brass tax, the problem of toxic team members/employees is really just another kind of team disconnect. Uncertainty is bred from a lack of communication and team engagement, two key factors for the success of any company or organization. Toxic employees in your team are a sign of a disjointed company culture, one that is lacking in the proper skills to work together in pursuit of a common goal.

At Incipio, we work with business owners and their teams to reconnect and learn effective communication with the goal of creating a more positive, engaging, scalable work environment. One of the top reasons for employee relationships to become toxic is due to some kind of workplace dissatisfaction, and without the kind of relationship that allows employees to express concerns or thoughts, it is only natural for people to become frustrated.

What Incipio does is help you build a better, harder working, more unanimous team, one that runs smoothly and in tandem with the intention of benefiting the business as a whole. With the help of our team building experts, we’ve helped countless teams to become the well-oiled machines they have always wanted to be, and helped business owners discover how they can foster positive and productive team relationships.

Visit Incipio Workforce Solutions to submit a communication assessment request and unlock your team’s full potential.