top of page

#8 – Toxic behaviour in different positions - Employees

It becomes particularly interesting when we look at employees who engage in toxic behaviour. This not only affects supervisors, managers or company owners, but also colleagues who are reluctant to "blacken the colours" of their peers. Nobody wants to be made the perpetrator, and there can be very different dynamics within a team. The overall problem is no less serious than for other positions in the company.

If toxic behaviour is identified in an employee, it is important to respond appropriately. This may include clarifying expectations, offering support or coaching, initiating conflict resolution measures or, in the worst case, disciplinary action to correct the behaviour and ensure a positive working environment for all.

How can toxic behaviour manifest itself in an employee?

First of all, it remains difficult to determine whether the behaviour is "toxic" and therefore harmful, with serious consequences for the working environment and team dynamics. The behaviour can be identified by the following signs in particular:

1. negative communication: Employees who constantly speak negatively, make disparaging remarks or belittle others can contaminate the entire work atmosphere.

2. constant criticism: Continuous criticism without giving constructive feedback or offering solutions can have a negative impact on the working environment.

3. conflict addiction: Employees who are constantly involved in conflict or provoke unnecessary arguments put a strain on team dynamics and therefore overall productivity.

4. passive-aggressive behaviour: Expressing dissatisfaction or frustration in a passive-aggressive form, such as subtle criticism, ignoring requests or sabotage, poisons the team climate in the long run.

5. manipulation: Employees who manipulate others to achieve their own goals instead of working together constructively can undermine trust in the team and hinder cooperation.

6. lack of teamwork: Refusing to work in a team while acting selfishly not only affects team performance but also influences the commitment of other employees.

7. lack of responsibility: If responsibility for one's own actions is not taken, but instead the blame is shifted to others or duties are neglected, this has a considerable impact on the trust of colleagues and superiors.

8) Gossip: Gossip and rumours have an enormous impact on the working environment and trust between employees.

9. lack of co-operation: Employees who behave uncooperatively, refuse to offer help and show little team spirit have a negative impact on efficiency and team spirit.

10. unprofessional behaviour: This includes, for example, inappropriate behaviour towards colleagues or superiors, not showing up on time or a lack of professionalism in the way they work.

What could be the employee's reasons for this?

The possible reasons for toxic behaviour among employees can be wide-ranging and range from personal problems to work environment factors:

1. personal issues: Challenges such as stress, anxiety, depression or other mental health issues can have an impact on personal behaviour in the workplace.

2. inadequate coping strategies: it is important to develop the necessary coping strategies to deal with stress, pressure or conflict so as not to have to express them inappropriately.

3. lack of social skills: difficulties in communicating appropriately with others or resolving conflicts in a constructive way may be present if social skills are lacking.

4. unresolved conflicts: Past or present conflicts in the workplace, whether with colleagues or superiors, can recur if they have not been conclusively resolved.

5. lack of recognition: If employees do not feel appropriately recognised or rewarded for their performance or contribution, frustration can arise and lead to toxic behaviour.

6. lack of clear expectations: If it is unclear what is expected in each case or what the standards of behaviour are, toxic behaviour can occur without the individual being aware of it.

7. toxic work culture: A work environment that favours competition over collaboration, mistrust over trust or competition over support encourages unhealthy behaviours.

8. leadership problems: Lack of leadership, poor communication from supervisors, unclear policies or unfair treatment lead to dissatisfaction, which in turn can lead to extreme behaviour.

9. personal attitudes and values: When values do not harmonise with each other, conflicts and even toxic behaviour arise.

10. unfavourable working conditions: Excessive pressure, inappropriate workload, unclear roles or lack of resources can frustrate and lead to destructive behaviour patterns.

Identifying the causes of toxic behaviour is essential in order to take appropriate action to resolve or prevent it and promote a healthy working environment. This includes support from managers, team coaching, conflict resolution strategies or measures to improve working conditions.

What fears can arise for you as the person affected?

As a manager and supervisor in particular, the following fears may arise in this situation:

1. fears for the working environment: Toxic and tolerated behaviour damages the working environment and has a negative impact on team dynamics.

2. concern about team performance: The team's overall performance may be affected, whether through conflict, reduced motivation or ineffective collaboration.

3. fear of conflict: Discomfort may arise in seeking confrontations with an employee or addressing the toxic behaviour for fear of escalation or negative impact on the working relationship. This demonstrates the ability of line managers to deal with conflict.

4. concern for morale and motivation: The morale and motivation of other team members can be significantly affected as they can become frustrated, unappreciative and demotivated.

5. concern about the working atmosphere: The general working atmosphere is negatively affected, which can lead to increased stress levels, lower satisfaction and increased staff turnover.

6. fear of reputational damage: Superiors fear that toxic behaviour by an employee will damage the reputation of the team or the company, e.g. through rumours and gossip or employee and customer reviews.

7. concern about legal consequences: There may likewise be potential legal consequences of toxic behaviour, such as complaints of bullying, discrimination or unprofessional behaviour.

8. concern for personal safety: In extreme cases, particularly if the toxic behaviour is aggressive or threatening, managers and colleagues may be concerned for their personal safety in the workplace.

It is important to see these fears, acknowledge them and take appropriate action to address toxic behaviours and promote a positive work environment where everyone can work together respectfully and productively.

But what opportunities does this precarious situation also offer you in case of doubt?

However, as in any situation in life, this also harbours enormous potential for development in various areas, such as

1. constructive conflict resolution: Toxic behaviour offers the opportunity to approach conflicts constructively and find solutions that can lead to improved working relationships and team dynamics.

2. development of leadership skills: The situation can strengthen leadership skills by challenging leaders to address toxic behaviour and take effective action to improve the situation.

3. strengthening team cohesion: By addressing and supporting the challenge together, line managers and colleagues can strengthen team cohesion and foster a sense of solidarity and support.

4. fostering an open communication culture: There is an opportunity to look at the overall communication culture and change it so that employees feel safe to raise concerns and issues and where constructive feedback is encouraged.

5. personal growth and development: The opportunity to grow and develop personally by tackling difficult situations and learning to manage them constructively.

6. strengthening the corporate culture: By actively addressing toxic behaviour and not tolerating it, everyone can contribute to creating a positive corporate culture based on respect, collaboration and mutual support.

7. improving working conditions: By identifying and addressing toxic behaviour, working conditions can be improved and a healthy work environment can be created.

8. increase employee satisfaction and retention: Employee satisfaction and retention can be strengthened by creating a new environment that respects their values and boosts their morale.

It is important to recognise these opportunities for individual, team and collective growth and take proactive steps to address toxic behaviours and leverage positive change in the team and work environment.

What are possible risks?

Possible risks for employees with toxic behaviour in the team can include the following:

1. escalation of conflicts

2. loss of trust and a negative impact on the working relationship and therefore performance

3. damage to reputation

4. lack of support from management

5. loss of employee engagement

6. legal consequences

7. lack of leadership skills

8. increased tension within the team

It is important to consider these risks and develop appropriate strategies to manage toxic behaviour without putting unnecessary strain on the working environment and employee relationships. This is mainly about supporting the management concerned - not only situationally but also preventively.

What can be done preventively?

In order to prevent toxic behaviour among employees, managers and company owners can take various preventative measures. Here are some options:

1. set clear expectations: Clear expectations regarding behaviour and work culture within the team should be communicated - for example, through clear guidelines, codes of conduct or team rules.

2. promoting a positive work culture: A positive work culture is built on respect, collaboration and open communication, among other things. It can help to prevent toxic behaviour. The introduction and promotion of a safe environment is necessary for this.

3. training and awareness-raising: Special training courses on conflict management, communication and mindfulness support employees in dealing effectively with each other and recognising toxic behaviour, learning how to deal with it and, ideally, avoiding it.

4. strengthening leadership skills: This can be achieved through training, coaching and mentoring.

5. promoting a feedback culture: Constructive feedback from both superiors and colleagues should be encouraged. This allows potential problems to be addressed and resolved at an early stage before they can lead to toxic behaviour.

6. regular employee appraisals: This opens up lines of communication, recognises performance and addresses problems early on before they lead to major conflicts.

7. provide conflict resolution mechanisms: Mediation or arbitration can help employees resolve conflicts in a constructive manner, thereby avoiding toxic behaviour.

8. exemplary behaviour of managers: Managers should be a role model for positive behaviour and a respectful work culture.

9. transparent and open communication: Management in particular can help to avoid misunderstandings and ensure that employees feel heard, valued, supported and challenged.

10. responding to warning signs: Managers should be alert to early warning signs of toxic behaviour and act proactively to address and resolve potential issues before they escalate.

Implementing appropriate preventative measures can help promote a healthy work environment and prevent or reduce toxic behaviour among employees.

The following organisations can support you in your situation:

1. HR

2. works council

3. company medical service

4. mentors and colleagues.

5 EAP (Employee Assistance Programme)

6. management consultancy and coaching

7. external counselling centres.

8. internal mediators

9. management and employee development programmes

10. diversity and inclusion officers

11. trade unions

12. legal counselling

13. external ombudsperson

Identifying and utilising these support points and resources will create a safe environment in which employees and managers can learn to deal constructively with toxic behaviour.

It is important to note that each situation is unique, and the best course of action may depend on various factors, including the severity of the toxic behaviour and the company culture. It may well be helpful to consult with a trusted person outside of the workplace to get an objective perspective and support in making decisions without running the risk of exacerbating the internal situation.

At best, get trustworthy support and experienced experts at your side - these situations are not without sensitivity and require a structured and clear approach in order to minimise the damage caused and also to value the injured parties accordingly and make them feel safe again.


Coaching offers ideal support here to either take the first steps in conflict management and analysing one's own reaction structures or to directly implement new skills that enable and empower all those involved to learn to deal well and confidently with corresponding situations in relationships. Another option is to act as a mediator or observer and outline a neutral picture of the prevailing relationship patterns in the department or company and use this to provide insights and recommendations for action to the decision-makers.

Trusting that the best possible solution will be allowed to develop and be implemented.


Coaching can provide you with targeted support in overcoming upcoming challenges at every stage - internally in the team or as a leader in the company. Let's work out together how I can provide you in your individual situation with optimal support and customised assistance.

Contact me to take your next steps

Nicole Dildei Coaching

+49 157 58 267 427

Please share the post on:


bottom of page