Good employees may be hard to find, but one bad employee can do major damage to a growing business. Identifying toxic employees is an essential part of success for any business, since those employees can often have a direct impact on overall office morale.

Terminating an employee can be an especially difficult task, necessitating careful documentation to avoid a lawsuit. In some instances, training can help improve troublesome behavior, but there are some issues that merit more immediate action. Here are some reasons to fast-track the termination process to avoid damage to your client relationships, office morale, and your business's bottom line.


Many employees steal from their employers in small ways, whether it's sneaking in a half hour of social media time while the boss is away or taking home a pen or a pad of Post-it notes. Whether small or large, though, employee theft is a serious issue, costing American businesses $200 billion in annual revenue. Catching employee theft can be tricky, so it's important to have checks in place to catch it as quickly as possible, including regular audits, reconciling statements, or assigning multiple employees to tasks.

Before firing an employee for theft, it's important to handle the matter delicately to avoid crossing legal boundaries. Save any documentation of incidents where theft occurred and make sure you have a trusted third party in the room when you terminate the employee. If theft is occurring in your business, it's important to act as swiftly as possible to minimize the damage.

Inappropriate Behavior

In some cases, an employee's behavior may merit dismissal. The behavior could be committed in front of co-workers, board members, or--worse--in front of clients or customers. Whether the employee simply has a knack for always saying the worst possible thing or the behavior puts your business at risk for a sexual harassment claim, it's important to do something about the employee as soon as possible.

In some cases, a stern conversation with the employee could make a difference. However, during the time while you're awaiting improvement, it might be best to keep the employee away from interacting with your customers and clients. If the behavior is directed toward other employees, consider moving the employee to an area where the least damage can be done until you're sure the behavior has improved. Unfortunately, in many cases, the only way to keep the employee from hurting the business is immediate dismissal.

Persistent Negativity

Most workplaces are filled with a variety of personality types, from bubbly former cheerleaders to curmudgeonly serious types. When all of these personalities mix, it can create chaos. Behind-the-scenes grumbling is only natural for a business that has more than a couple of employees, and, in many cases, leaders won't know about it at all. However, when one employee's persistent negativity is heard loud and clear throughout the day, it can force managers to make a tough decision.

If an employee's negative comments are disrupting meetings and undermining the work you're doing as a business leader, you'll have to tackle the issue both tactfully and directly. Try to diffuse the situation in the moment, then pull the employee aside later for a one-on-one talk about the behavior. Instead of attacking the employee's personality, it's important to focus on the way the comments are affecting the meeting and the ability of the rest of the team to listen. Before firing the employee, make sure the behavior is in direct violation with company policy and isn't protected by the National Labor Relations Act.

As a business leader, you'll occasionally be required to deal with difficult employees. However, with the right approach, you can reduce these negative behaviors and terminate employees whose behavior might be toxic to the environment you've worked hard to create.