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Culture Shift: How to deal with toxic high-performers

By Galen Emanuele

August 1, 2022

Addressing a dynamic that exists in companies and teams that I think a lot of organizations and leaders don’t necessarily know how to deal with are toxic high-performers.

I am zero percent sorry to say this:

Get rid of toxic, high-performing employees.

Let’s say you have an employee who’s a top performer — maybe they’re a very profitable sales rep or a leader who just gets stuff done — but they leave a trail of bodies in their wake by being hard to work with; they’re chaotic, they don’t take feedback, are poor communicators, stir up drama, or play by their own rules and do not take accountability for their negative behavior or impact on others, etc.

You know who they are. Get those people off your boat. They. Are. Not. Worth. It.

More trouble than they’re worth. Those people are not worth the damage they do to your organization; they are cancer to company and team culture.

When you have employees like that, the other employees around them, or that they’re leading, suffer. The cost of keeping toxic people is the morale and performance of your other employees.

When you keep bad apples on your team, the impact on your other people will be that they either don’t want to come to work, they spend time stressing out or talking to friends and family about how bad it is at work, and ultimately often end up looking around and quitting their jobs because they don’t want to deal with this toxic person.

Zero regrets. I’m going to share with you a list of how many organizations have ever regretted having that person leave or finally firing them after putting up with their behavior for way too long: None.

No company ever regrets having that person gone after the fact. The reaction always is every other employee giving a great sigh of relief and suddenly enjoying their job and coming to work a whole lot more. They also will often spread their arms towards leadership with an exasperated look on their faces of “OMG, what took you so long to do that?”

People that help create a great positive culture are key to retaining talent. Yes, toxic high-performers can provide a lot of value or profit to the company, but you’re losing your great and your best employees by keeping people who are toxic. That also has a huge impact on your company’s bottom line.

A whole lot of people quit their jobs because of a leader or a coworker that they cannot stand working with. This is huge, especially in the war for talent that most organizations are struggling through.

Get toxic high-performers out of your organization. You are paying them a salary to ruin your company.

I said what I said, and I ain’t sorry about it.

Galen Emanuele is a speaker and trainer on business leadership and team culture based out of Portland, Ore. Every week, Emanuele produces a video and blog post highlighting vital conversations, building skill sets and showing teams how to drive exceptional culture and leadership. To see more, visit