Finally, after handling the process of coaching and counseling, and with support from HR, you were able to fire the person whose behavior has been creating problems, both inside your team and with other teams. Now you won’t have to run around trying to repair the damage they seemed to do almost weekly. But don’t draw a sigh of relief just yet! First, attend to these four areas of necessary attention.
Revisit Your Plans
Get your team together and review strategy, next steps, and how the team will operate without the problematic person. Remind everyone about group values, particularly in such areas as how you serve customers, treat colleagues, and deal honestly and kindly with each other. This is a useful opportunity to confirm expectations about both performance and behavior.
Also, check on the status and progress of current work. You may not be aware of this individual’s full impact on either work processes or the work environment. They may have insisted that things be done a particular way, and now it’s easier to change that, or their divisiveness may have prevented normal information flows. Now is your chance to reset.
Review Individual Work Assignments
After your group review, you may find aspects of standard operating procedure that have been neglected or need updating to reorient how your remaining team members function. Some employees may need revised or expanded assignments to carry the slack as you replace the problem employee or repair damage. If the employee was in some way a “star” or a “brilliant jerk,” there may be features of their work approach or output that are very much missed by the team, even if most people are relieved not to have to deal with the problem person’s toxicity, negativity, or abuse anymore.
It’s normal for people to feel out of sorts during any organizational change, so try not to feel impatient or as if your efforts to rebalance the team have been overlooked. Instead, sit down with each team member and review their individual strengths and goals. You can treat this like a “stay” interview—ask what would be helpful to team members going forward and what would support their success and improve their output. It’s a plus if you can offer (or revisit) a robust growth trajectory that shows you have their careers in mind. And if you need to replace people or bring in new talent, make a point of sharing with the new hires all the strategy, plans, cultural norms, and behaviors that you’ve shared with the rest of the team to ensure that the new folks get off on the right foot.
Check for Traumatic Impact
When you get rid of a “bad egg,” what does everyone else think about it? Some team members may have been hiding or suppressing how negatively they felt about the toxic team member, just trying to keep their heads down and get their work done. Others may be concerned about having been affiliated with or seen as being connected to the “bad” person. And not everyone will necessarily have seen the problematic person as being a problem for them personally.
For some team members, the results of the former colleague’s challenging behavior or star quality may actually have been helpful in accomplishing their own work. They may feel resentful now that the person is no longer present or even adrift, particularly if the removed person was an important influencer or a connection to other departments’ work. So don’t be surprised if some members of your team are either stunned by the removal or shocked by the changes around them, even if the overall impact for the team and the organization is clearly positive.
Once you’ve held individual check-ins, it may be helpful to reassure people that they have the skills and talents they need to get things done, and that you’re there to help them if they need resources or support and to listen to any concerns they wish to share.
Even if the workflows or processes improve and relationships become more generally congenial, people who suffered from the impact of a toxic colleague may still feel bruised or disconnected, and some of them might become flight risks. So you’ll want to assure them that they have a variety of reasons to stay, including good working relationships with their fellow team members and other colleagues.
Similarly, it can help to do some intentional damage control or restoration of relationships with neighboring departments. That can mean resetting interdepartmental responsibilities and expectations during project meetings or communicating with other department heads about adjustments that may need to happen without the toxic person. And, equally important, let everyone know that there will now be better ways to work together.
It can be a big relief to all parties when a toxic individual is no longer in the picture. But to get the best possible outcome, it helps to do some intentional repair and reconnection to counteract both short- and long-term damage.
Onward and upward—