Toxic employees are not uncommon in the workplace. Gail Cruikshank, the Talent Director from the Greater St. Cloud Development Corporation has some solutions on how to best deal with toxic employees.

What is a Toxic Employee?

  • Creates a negative environment for themselves and others
  • Spread negativity that can be difficult to manage
  • Not willing to take responsibility for their actions/don’t work well with others
  • Make excuses for behavior instead of trying to fix – often times, blaming those around them instead of taking ownership to issue.

How do you Manage a Toxic Employee?

  • Identify and address the behavior quickly
    • Communicate with the employee directly as soon as possible
    • Establish clear expectations while also being aware of any potential underlying issues that may be causing behavior
    • Enforce consequences
  • Document all conversations for proof if needed
  • Set up regular check-ins with the employee in order to keep track of their progress and boost morale while they work on improving their attitude and work place behavior.
  • Provide resources such as counseling or coaching if needed
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Gail Cruikshank (photo - Jay Caldwell)
Gail Cruikshank (photo - Jay Caldwell)

Things you should not allow toxic employees to do

  • Don’t let toxic employees get away with their behavior. Step in and set them straight immediately.
  • Don’t let toxic employees take over the conversation. Reconfirm conversation etiquette. Continuation of behavior remove them from meetings
  • Don’t let toxic employees take credit for your work (or anyone else’s) – Correct immediately

Can you “FIX” Toxic Employees?

  • It takes patience and commitment from both employer and employee
  • Employee needs to be willing to take responsibility for actions as well as make effort to change behavior.
  • Employer provides counseling, coaching, regular check ins and establishing clear expectations.
  • Employer recognizes positive changes in behavior

Best way to deal with toxic employees is to not hire them in the first place. But….

  • Pay attention to their interactions with other employees. Are they respectful and professional or show signs of aggression?
  • Watch for signs of unprofessional behavior such as gossiping, belittling others and how they react to criticism.
  • Look for signs of a lack of team spirit and collaboration. Do they try to go it alone or contribute in group activities
  • By being observant and setting clear expectations from the start, you can help ensure your workplace is free of toxic behavior.

How do you spot Toxic Workers BEFORE you hire?

  • Ask interview questions allowing candidates to showcase their communication and collaboration skills
  • Ask them about past experiences with working in teams/interaction with colleagues.
  • Check their references for potential red flags

Things to remember


  • Foster an environment of open communication
  • Give direct feedback to employees
  • Enforce consequences for unacceptable behavior
  • Separate toxic workers from other team members
  • Address underlying issues


  • Ignore signs of toxicity in the workplace
  • Avoid dealing with difficult conversations
  • Sweep problems under the rug
  • Enable bad behavior through inaction
  • Give up on employees without making an effort

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