Problems with the team – identifying and neutralizing a toxic (negative/damaging) member

Problems with the Team can be a daily occurrence for a Project Manager. Finding and retaining valuable employees is critical, but identifying and dealing with so-called “toxic” employees is vital to the team’s compactness.

We all know that there are characters you can’t stand. We met at school, at university, or work.

If hired, employees are expected to bring value to an organization, but what toxic employees (i.e., employees with personalities that are not tolerated by the remaining team members) bring is just annoyance and problems that quickly affect the success of the project and the organization.

Human resources and top managers should be able to detect toxic behavior and take immediate action to prevent chaos. If not neutralized in time, these elements could even lead to the destruction of the corporate culture.

The different kinds of toxic members

Here are some signs of a toxic employee within the team and some suggestions on how to handle the situation.

Toxic members: The gossiper

It is undoubtedly a good sign if employees develop friendly relationships and get along well with each other.

An open communication culture should be encouraged; however, office gossip can lead to a significant reduction in productivity if it exceeds the limit.

Gossips are everywhere: chatting by the coffee machine, walking around during lunchtime, always trying to find exciting office “stories.”

This type of employee becomes toxic when they become hyper-focused on collecting funny stories and gossip rather than working.

In addition, excessive gossip and unfounded rumors can create drama among employees.

To avoid this, you need to make sure that employees have enough time to interact with each other during lunch or social events after work.

This way, they should remain more focused on work during regular office hours.

If however, this behavior persists, you will have to talk to those directly concerned and, in the most severe cases, act accordingly.

Toxic members: The one who always says yes

This is a rather tricky case to identify. As such, an employee does not seem to cause many problems, on the contrary.

However, you might notice that an individual team member always agrees at the end of every discussion and meeting, without ever bringing anything new.

If an employee behaves like this and never asks questions, this may be an indicator that they are not willing to learn.

These people make the least effort to do precisely what is expected of them and nothing more. They will wait for detailed instructions without any initiative.

In these cases, you need to talk to them to find out the reasons for their lack of motivation.

Toxic members: The procrastinator

In a world where employees use the internet daily for their work or even have to stay in touch with customers and suppliers on social media, from time to time, there may be distracted a bit.

However, when these distractions stop being quick and innocent, problems arise.

If the employee begins to miss deadlines or perform poor quality work, action must be taken.

Stricter deadlines and more demanding tasks can be the solution and, not to forget, positive words if a project is successfully completed.

Getting recognition on a regular basis ensures that employees are more committed to their work and perform better.

Toxic members: The apology maker

This kind of employee is similar to the procrastinator, as they both try to stay away from work, but the apology maker is definitely more creative as he always seeks justification for his delay.

Other “symptoms” include high absenteeism, low energy, and lack of motivation.

You can identify these employees with unscheduled visits, requesting regular reports, and making them personally responsible for specific tasks.
the toxic member

Toxic members: The narcissist

A narcissistic employee is usually an excellent interpreter but does not seem to recognize the value of a strong team.

This person prefers to work independently and may even go so far as to underestimate the work of colleagues.

The organization, however, needs the collaboration of the team to achieve challenging goals.

For this, you need to promote your team’s successes and support group projects, recognize the team’s efforts to demonstrate that each member’s input is essential.

Toxic members: The grumpy

It is quite ordinary to have a colleague grumbling on Monday morning, but when this becomes a habit, it is probably a toxic person.

These are the employees who are always complaining about everything – whether there is a real reason or not: from a broken coffee machine to a low-speed Internet connection; these people don’t seem to be satisfied with anything and, as a result, create negativity in the team.

In such cases, it is a good idea to compare people and ask what is causing their dissatisfaction. Is there anything that can be done to improve the work area, which would actually be beneficial for everyone?

Listening to reasonable complaints can lead to progress, but complaining just for the sake of it is something that cannot be accepted for too long.

Toxic members: The “I-know-it-all”

In our lives, we have all come across a person who believes they know everything, both personally and professionally.

These people usually have an answer for everything and will not accept or listen to another point of view.

Employees who show this kind of behavior are toxic because they don’t want to receive feedback.

So how will they perform better if they refuse to incorporate constructive criticism into their work?

In this case, training sessions for this type of employee can be envisaged in order to broaden their knowledge.


Ultimately, having a toxic employee on the team is more expensive in the long term than having a not fully trained employee.

Toxic behavior affects the whole team and prevents them from working efficiently.

Yet firing toxic employees is not always the best approach; in most cases, it is possible to eliminate toxic behavior and retain the worker.

People are not always aware of their behavior.

In general, once a toxic employee has been identified, the first solution is always to have a personal discussion with them and try to understand the reasons for this negative behavior and act accordingly.

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