Ask the Expert

How do I deal with a "toxic" team member?

Her constant negativity is affecting the entire team. What can I do?

Graphic of two people in a disagreement
  • Date: 11 September 2023

Q. I am a new practice manager, in charge of a small team. Generally the team gets along well, but recently I’ve heard comments that one individual is always being negative and can be quite short-tempered with colleagues. This seems to have been unaddressed for a while and it is causing unrest in the team. Is this something I can approach now even though it’s been happening for a while?

Although this person’s behaviour seems to have been left unchallenged for a few years, this doesn’t mean it can’t be tackled now. As the new practice manager, you have every right to deal with a situation that you are just becoming aware of.

Dealing with toxic employees can be difficult and stressful but it needs to be done to allow the chance for the behaviour to improve. It is important not to turn a blind eye as the behaviour will likely continue and this could result in employees raising a grievance or even leaving due to this one person’s behaviour.

If other employees are complaining, then it is important to gather examples of the toxic behaviour so this can be addressed with the individual. At this stage, the matter will be treated informally, so there is no requirement to get witness statements, although this may be required later if the matter results in formal action being invoked.

The next step is to arrange a meeting with the employee to discuss the matter in an open and honest manner. Share with her the examples you have gathered, and give her an opportunity to explain why these behaviours occurred. Be sure to make clear exactly why the behaviours are inappropriate and the impact they are having on the wider team.

The next stage is to agree a way forward, together, discussing what measures can be put in place to help make positive changes. This could include extra support, training or mediation.

It is important the employee understands what is expected from her, and that support will be given. Be clear that, if the behaviour does not change, formal action may be taken, which could lead to disciplinary procedures.

After the meeting, it is important to monitor the situation and make regular checks to see if her behaviour is improving. Feedback, positive and negative, should be given. If there is no improvement, then formal disciplinary action can be invoked. 

  • Login to your MDDUS account to access a range of employment law factsheets and other resources on topics including disciplinary and grievance procedures.

This page was correct at the time of publication. Any guidance is intended as general guidance for members only. If you are a member and need specific advice relating to your own circumstances, please contact one of our advisers.

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