Recognizing that there’s a toxic employee in your hospitality team is a tough call but it can happen anywhere. If left un-handled, it can have a collateral effect on employee morale, team cohesion and company culture. Identifying a toxic employee – or candidate – can be complex. 

Nipping toxicity in the bud requires insight, empathy and diplomacy, but it is a reflection of strong leadership and care for the wellbeing of the team. If you suspect you have a bad apple, take heart. Identifying a toxic employee and the kind of behavior you can’t accept is the first step. 

From there, you can take appropriate actions to work with, remove or reject a toxic individual and restore calm, confidence and camaraderie to your team. 

What’s toxic and what’s not? 

A toxic employee is any individual that brings coworkers (and the company) down. We’re talking about unacceptable behavior that goes beyond a rough patch or the natural ebb and flow of working dynamics and negatively affects the mental health of the whole hospitality team. 

Toxicity can take many forms and have many reasons behind it.

A toxic employee can be a high-achiever, a long-timer, or a “people-person” – and might be struggling with work-life balance, which can make these kinds of behavior infinitely more complex to navigate. 


The trouble with toxicity

One toxic employee can be like kryptonite to a hospitality company’s culture and progress. A Harvard Business Review study found that each toxic employee can cost a company up to $12,500 – not to mention possible legal action, a tarnished reputation and deflated employee morale. 

The trouble with toxicity is that it rarely reverses itself. Once bad feelings begin, they can quickly contaminate the work environment and escalate to a company-wide communication breakdown. 

Toxic employees often seek allegiances or cause a ripple effect with their actions making it tricky to tell who is at the root of the problem, and who is being dragged along for the ride or getting caught in the crossfire. 


Go with your gut – and follow up with facts

Observe the behavior of a toxic employee, as well as the effects on other team members. Note actions and reactions, and try to spot patterns and triggers. Track key events and facts so that you have solid evidence to bring to the table.

Use your intuition and experiences to avoid hiring potentially toxic hospitality candidates. Raise the red flag at the first warning signs of bad behavior. Limiting the damage to the interview stage will save time, money and headaches. 

It’s far better to turn toxicity away at the front door than kick yourself later for not listening to the “little voice” and try to undo the damage done.