Why Toxic Teammates Leave on Their Own

Even when all the coaching efforts and performance improvement plans have been exhausted, it seems impossible to move disengaged employees along. The HR wheels turn slowly and toxic teammates often find a way to stay an inch short of termination for cause. What would it take for them to leave on their own?

Actively disengaged employees spend considerable energy hurting coworkers and poisoning workplaces. They need dysfunction to survive. Complaining without constructive solutions is their primary mode of communication. Gossiping and bullying are their tactics. They seek to divide the team and make others feel unsafe. This is how they establish and maintain their power. Most teammates are unwilling to suffer the consequences of confronting them.

Surprisingly, toxic employees often leave on their own when team culture no longer tolerates bad behavior. In today’s economy, few workplaces can afford to waste energy or resources on managing broken people. When leadership empowers employees to hold others accountable to mission and values, the fuel for dysfunction gradually disappears. Eventually, employees who thrive on disengagement need to go elsewhere to get their emotional needs met.

If an employee’s psychological foundation for self-esteem requires making others feel small, a workplace culture devoted to respect and professionalism no longer feeds their fragile ego. Poisonous people seek poisonous environments. Let them go.

Many workplace problems solve themselves when a team commits to behavior-based values and a culture of accountability. Top performers are only valuable when they aren’t sucking the life out of their teammates. Because we’re human, occasional broken interactions are inevitable. Normalizing them, however, is unhealthy. What you tolerate, you sanction.