Industrial psychologists differ as to their perspective for remediating toxic employees. Some believe that enlightened and supportive internal counseling might be effective in changing behaviors. Others feel that external coaches may have an advantage. If coaching is engaged, most industrial and organizational psychologists would agree that it should be focused on the very specific disruptive behaviors that need to be changed, rather than attempting broader behavioral change, which is less likely to be accepted or successful.

There is little disagreement that the best way to deal with toxic employees is to avoid hiring them in the first place. Easier said than done, of course. Toxic employees may have mastered the art of behaving properly during a selection interview. Some employers use structured, comprehensive interviews, involving multiple interviewers, formats, and settings, in order to best detect “red flags” that might telegraph a propensity to engage in toxic behavior.

When termination is deemed to be the only remaining viable option, the general guideline that is advocated by industrial psychologists and human resource management professionals, can be summed up in three words: document, document, document!

Most employers would agree that toxic employees are bad enough, but toxic managers and leaders are far worse – and perhaps more difficult to avoid and navigate around.

Jay Finkelman is chair of the Industrial-Organizational Psychology Department at the Chicago School of Professional Psychology (TCSPP) is a nonprofit, regionally accredited institution with more than 4.300 students at campuses in Southern California, Chicago, Dallas, Washington, D.C., and online.

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