Sticky solutions to your everyday business challenges
Question: I am the Regional Director of a pharma company with about 75 employees. Two years ago, we hired a sales producer who came to us with an outstanding portfolio of industry experience. She’s proven herself to be a self-starter, a hard worker, and one of our leading achievers. The problem is, no one else wants to work with her. She’s arrogant, pushes for special treatment, and creates drama everywhere she goes. I’ve tried coaching and conflict resolution which seems to work for awhile, but she keeps sliding back into her old self. What advice can you share for how to handle this toxic performer?
Answer: You have what is known as the black walnut tree of the employee pool. They generate pounds and pounds of walnuts, but secrete a substance into the soil that is toxic to other plants within a 50-foot perimeter. Don’t blame yourself. Top performers who are also toxic to everyone around them are more common than you might think. In fact, it’s often partly because certain personalities excel at their jobs—and know it—that they become so difficult to work with.
These toxic achievers pose a serious constant dilemma. On the one hand, they produce results. On the other hand, they create revolving doors all around them, and, as you know, suck up a tremendous amount of time and energy handling the drama that surrounds them.
The question ultimately becomes: Can you succeed with this person on the team or realistically survive without her?
If you add up all of the collateral damage in terms of stress, chaos, and conflict, you’ll come down to one solution – the only way to have a healthy organization is to prune out the toxic achiever.
Some personality types and certain kinds of office conflicts can be managed, but this one can’t. Be careful to document the negative impact on the organization, incidents with colleagues, unwillingness to follow policies, and her inability to collaborate with others. Otherwise, you’re setting yourself up for a lawsuit and continued drama.
The thought of getting rid of your toxic achiever may cause you dread, but once she’s gone, you’ll be surprised how much better life is at the office. You will breathe easier, and your team will thank you. Chances are, she’s also miserable and would be happier in a culture that prides itself on extreme competition and less on valuing the contributions of others.