Beyond Results: Why Tolerating Toxic High-Performers Hurts Your Team (and Your Bottom Line)

Organisations often face a dilemma in their pursuit of talent. While they strive to attract and retain high-performing individuals, they also want teams that function well together and foster a positive workplace culture. However, placing high performers in collaborative groups without addressing the potential harm this can cause can lead to issues such as aggression, exclusion, and sabotage. New research suggests that an emphasis on teamwork can amplify the risks for high performers, as social comparison plays a role in determining high performance. To address these concerns, managers can create a more balanced performance review system that values contributions beyond task accomplishment and cultivate an understanding that everyone benefits from having high performers on the team.

Key Takeaways

  • Tolerating toxic high-performers can have severe consequences for your team’s dynamics and workplace culture.
  • Placing high performers in collaborative teams without addressing the potential harm can lead to aggression, exclusion, and sabotage.
  • A balanced performance review system that values contributions beyond task accomplishment can help create a more positive work environment.
  • Cultivating an understanding that everyone benefits from having high performers on the team is essential for team cohesion and success.
  • Managers play a crucial role in creating a positive work culture through leadership, accountability, and fostering inclusivity.

The Impact of Tolerating Toxic High-Performers

Tolerating toxic high-performers within a team can have a detrimental impact on both the team dynamics and the overall organisational culture. Research shows that toxic employees can create a negative work environment characterised by gossip, unhealthy competition, and disrespect. This, in turn, leads to increased turnover rates as employees become disengaged and unhappy.

Managers who fail to address toxic behaviour and reward high-performers, regardless of their negative impact on team morale, contribute to perpetuating a toxic work culture. Leaders must recognise the harmful consequences of tolerating toxic high-performers and take steps to address and rectify such situations.

negative work environments

Identifying a Toxic Work Environment

Toxic work environments are often characterised by certain red flags that indicate an unhealthy and toxic culture. These red flags include unethical behaviour, such as dishonesty and lack of transparency, non-inclusive practices that marginalise certain individuals or groups, disrespectful treatment of employees, cutthroat competition that fosters hostility and backstabbing, and instances of abuse, bullying, and harassment. Managers need to be aware of these signs and take proactive measures to address and rectify a toxic work environment to protect their team’s well-being and promote a positive and healthy workplace culture.

The Role of Managers in Creating a Positive Work Culture

Managers play a crucial role in creating a positive work culture. Toxic managers who exhibit traits such as micromanagement, failure to address toxic behaviour, and lack of recognition for employee performance contribute to a negative work environment. Additionally, when managers prioritise high performance and metrics over inclusivity, diversity initiatives, and leadership training, they promote unhealthy workplace behaviour and hinder the growth and well-being of their team.

Managers must recognise and address their own shortcomings, create a culture of inclusivity and accountability, and prioritise the long-term health and growth of their team and the organisation.

Toxic managers who engage in micromanagement tend to stifle creativity, hinder autonomy, and create a sense of mistrust among team members. Effective leaders, on the other hand, empower their employees by providing guidance and support while allowing them to take ownership of their work.

A failure to address toxic behaviour within a team not only perpetuates a negative work culture but also alienates valuable employees and breeds resentment. Leaders must be proactive in addressing toxic behaviour through open and honest communication, fair consequences, and targeted interventions.

Recognising and appreciating employee performance is crucial for maintaining a positive work culture. Performance recognition programs, feedback mechanisms, and opportunities for growth and development are essential components in fostering a motivated and engaged workforce.

Leadership accountability is key to creating a positive work culture. Managers should embrace inclusivity and diversity initiatives, ensuring equal opportunities and creating an environment where all employees feel valued and respected.

By prioritising the well-being and growth of their team, managers can create a positive work culture that not only enhances employee satisfaction and productivity but also attracts and retains top talent. Inclusive and accountable leadership sets the foundation for a thriving organisation that thrives on collaboration, innovation, and success.

Strategies for Building an Effective Team

Building an effective team requires implementing strategies that promote open and honest communication, establish feedback mechanisms, and foster a healthy work-life balance. When team members can communicate honestly and openly, it creates a positive and supportive environment where ideas flow freely, and issues are resolved efficiently. This honest communication allows for better collaboration and encourages a sense of trust and transparency among team members.

Feedback mechanisms play a crucial role in team development. By providing regular and constructive feedback, team members can understand their strengths and areas for improvement, fostering their professional growth. Additionally, feedback helps in building a culture of continuous learning and improvement, ensuring that the team remains adaptable and resilient.

“Feedback is the breakfast of champions.” – Ken Blanchard

Achieving a healthy work-life balance is essential for team members’ overall well-being and productivity. Organisations should prioritise the well-being of their team by encouraging boundaries between work and personal life. This can include implementing flexible work arrangements, encouraging breaks, and discouraging excessive overtime. When team members have a good work-life balance, they are more engaged, motivated, and better equipped to contribute effectively to the team’s goals.

Zero-tolerance policies should be in place to address toxic behaviour promptly and create a safe and inclusive work environment. By clearly communicating expectations, organisations can set the standard for respectful and supportive behaviour. This fosters a culture where teamwork and collaboration thrive, and individuals feel valued and included.

Supportive networks and collaborative work environments are crucial for building an effective team. Encouraging cross-functional collaboration and providing opportunities for team members to connect and share ideas promote engagement and creativity. Building supportive networks not only strengthens teamwork but also enhances the overall sense of belonging and motivation among team members.

Professional development is essential for a team’s growth and success. Organisations should invest in training programs, workshops, and other learning opportunities to enhance team members’ skills and knowledge. Recognising and valuing contributions beyond performance metrics, such as innovative problem-solving or leadership skills, creates a culture where everyone’s unique strengths are celebrated.


Tolerating toxic high-performers within your team can have severe consequences for the dynamics of your workplace, the well-being of your employees, and the overall organisational culture. It is crucial for managers to address toxic behaviour promptly and create a positive work environment that prioritises the growth and well-being of their team. By fostering an inclusive and supportive culture, implementing clear policies, and promoting honest communication and collaboration, you can build effective teams that thrive and contribute to the overall success of your organisation.

Organisational culture plays a vital role in shaping workplace dynamics. A toxic culture, perpetuated by the presence of toxic high-performers, can lead to low employee morale, disengagement, and increased turnover rates. It is essential to recognise the importance of a healthy and positive culture in driving team effectiveness and long-term success.

Managers need to prioritise the well-being of their employees and ensure that their team members feel valued and supported. By addressing toxic behaviour and fostering a culture that encourages open dialogue, feedback, and collaboration, you can create an environment where employees can thrive and contribute their best. Prioritising employee well-being not only boosts morale but also enhances team effectiveness and overall productivity.

In conclusion, building a strong organisational culture that rejects toxic high-performers and fosters a positive work environment is essential for the long-term success of your team. By prioritising the well-being and growth of your employees, you can create a team that is not only high-performing but also happy and engaged. Remember, team effectiveness goes beyond individual achievements – it is about creating an environment where everyone can thrive.

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