I have the utmost respect for leaders who deal with toxic behavior head on. Many healthcare leaders still look past the gossips and groaners because they have good technical skills. Some leaders feel they have to tolerate BMWs (bitches, moaners and whiners) because they need a person to fill a slot in the schedule.
The problem is, there will be another slot next week and the week after. And what happens to the rest of the team while you keep filling shifts with toxic people? The culture erodes and so does your reputation.
A few months ago, I was coaching a leader who was having difficulty taking the final step in terminating a toxic individual. Her biggest challenge was that “Toxic Tilly” was a technical wizard. Unfortunately she demanded perfectionism in all things from her teammates. Nothing was ever good enough and Tilly was always there to point that out to everyone.
After giving Tilly both written and verbal warnings, “Carol” called me and said, “It’s decision-making day.” In her organization, that means it is the turning point of termination. She described the precipitating event (which was the final straw) in deciding to terminate. She had had enough.
Carol managed the termination like a true professional. It is never easy having to terminate someone, but Carol managed with dignity and respect.
Once the dust had settled, I asked Carol what she had learned from the experience. She answered the same way dozens of other leaders have in similar situations. She said, “My only regret is that I wish I had done it much sooner. I hadn’t realized the strain it was placing on me and the rest of the team.”
Coaching is always the first step. But when you know that a toxic team member isn’t changing and is bringing others down, you must take action. You owe it to your high performers and the people you serve.