How to Handle Toxic Employees in the Workplace

How to Handle Toxic Employees in the Workplace

We’ve all experienced working with someone who leaves negativity and discontent in their wake. Left unchecked, one bad seed will infect teams and can damage an entire organization. But what makes someone a bad seed? It is usually unrelated to their skillset or abilities; instead it is a persistently demoralizing attitude and associated behaviors towards coworkers and the workplace.



We’re all affected by the happiness – or unhappiness – of those around us. Researchers have found that the effect of one de-energizing (read: negative) connection or interaction is up to seven times stronger than the effect of a positive connection or interaction. A little negativity goes a long way in the wrong direction. Think about it: if you receive five compliments and one negative remark, which do you ruminate over? The negative one.


This causes real problems in organizations. A bad seed can cause fellow team members to share less information, perform poorly, doubt themselves, and experience decreased trust, motivation, and satisfaction at work. Their energy is likely to be spent analyzing how to deal with or avoid the toxic person. And avoidance strategies can include good employees choosing to leave an organization entirely. To make matters worse, a company’s top performers are the ones most likely to leave because of bad seeds.


Although Jordan Search Consultants is focused on recruiting the best, we are often asked to help clients navigate situations in which toxic employees have permeated their environment. Here are a few tips:


  • Avoid putting the toxic employee in leadership roles, as their negative influence will become even more damaging.
  • If the employee is critical to the company’s success, isolate them to minimize the contact they have with coworkers. A physical buffer between the offender and the team can help: rearrange office layouts, allow them to work from home, and have less meetings.
  • Ask them to leave the company. If the employee is not essential to the organization’s success (and, more often than not, toxic employees can and will be replaced), it is best to remove them—and their influence—from the organization. In our experience, only then can organizations truly rebuild a healthy and positive company culture.


Dealing with the effects of a bad seed in the workplace is extremely costly. The best line of defense against toxic employees is to be stringent in your hiring processes and avoid bringing them into the organization at all. Screening for cultural alignment is key to this effort. That’s why, in addition to fully exploring a candidate’s past work behavior, conducting background checks, and talking to references at length, the Jordan Search Consultants’ recruitment experts hold in-depth interviews and administer personality assessments to ensure an optimal cultural match between the candidate and the organization. Learn more about our candidate matching process on how excessively we vet candidates to prevent clients from hiring bad seeds.


For healthcare or physician recruitment, contact Jordan Search Consultants at 866-750-7231 or email us.

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