Live from the CVC in Kansas City: How to transform toxic team members


You know your practice has toxic employees, but do you know how to change them? Shawn McVey reveals how to detox your team.

Toxic employees can be extremely intimidating, but don't cower, don't cower, don't cower, says Shawn McVey, MA, MSW,Veterinary Economics Editorial Advisory Board member and owner of McVey Management Solutions in Chicago. After you hear about the conflict, take the toxic employee aside and confront him. Ask questions like, "What was your intention when you did this?" and "What were you trying to accomplish when you said that?"

The employee will probably defend his actions saying, "I was only trying to help move the practice forward." (Most toxic employees think they're simply being honest and that their fellow team members are too sensitive.) Make sure you tell the employee how his words or actions hurt the team. Say something like, "I know you were trying to help but you actually made Susie cry and start talking behind your back so we had to hold a team meeting. Now we’ve wasted four hours of the day trying to mend the mess you made."

Be prepared for a fight; toxic team members can be stubborn and resistant to feedback. At first, they’ll likely blame others and fail to see their own communication failures. Try to stay patient and persistent, McVey says. “Make sure your explanations hit him hard enough to hurt,” he says. "The saying 'no pain, no gain' definitely applies to toxic team members."

After the employee admits that he's the problem, it's time to plan the change, encourage other team members to be supportive, and set milestones. Meet with the toxic employee weekly or monthly to see how he’s doing and implement the transformation plan. Remember that every employee is different, so if you don't see an instant change, don't give up. "Keep giving toxic employees detailed feedback and expect to see change in three to six months' time," McVey says.

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