Articles From Adrian Gostick View Profile

Share this Article
  • 5 Signs You Have A Toxic Team Member

    Adrian Gostick, 5 Signs You Have A Toxic Team Member

    The worst employee I ever had is the gift that keeps giving.

    At the time it was a mess: I didn’t listen to the rumblings of the rest of the staff. I promoted him hoping that would build loyalty and stop the backstabbing. I kept him around much too long. Dumb, dumb.

    But then there was a silver lining: I did so many things wrong that I actually learned what not to do as a manager.

     As I consult with leaders now, most admit they’ve had to deal with a toxic employee or two along the way, and many tell me they have one on staff as we speak. Why don’t they get rid of them? It’s complicated. While it’s relatively easy to identify someone who’s incompetent—heck, we usually have a good idea by Friday of their first week—someone who doesn’t fit our culture is harder to spot. It can take months, and by then it can be hard to get rid of the Toxic—especially if they are doing their work in a satisfactory manner or have built up a camp of followers around them. And anyway, we’ve spent so much time hiring and training that we rationalize we don’t want to start over.

     Great leaders, however, have their ears to the ground. They sincerely listen to teammates. They hear what’s going on. 

     Here are a few ways I’ve learned to spot a Toxic employee in the team:

     1) They take credit for other people’s work. One of the most frequent complaints we hear in our employee engagement surveys is that so-and-so on my team: “Takes credit for my work.” Want to undermine trust in your department? Then let that continue! 

     2) They gossip. One thing about the Toxic, they are always eager to hear and share the latest dirt. And the gossip they are most excited about: Anything negative. Spreading critical, destructive gossip releases endorphins that some people get a charge from, but it will kill morale.

     3) They make the ‘rounds.’ Toxic employees often make the “rounds” of leaders in 

    the organization. Now I’m not saying employees shouldn’t be able to have relationships with higher ups other than their manager, but you’ll notice the Toxic spend very little time chatting with peers or those under them, but an inordinate amount of time working the upper rungs on the ladder.

     4) They ask a lot of you. Who demands more money, more attention, more perks? It’s usually not a team’s stars but the whiners. The Toxic are constantly telling you how underpaid they are, how overworked, how underappreciated. Here’s a strategy, the next time one of these folks makes an ultimatum call their bluff: “You are right Joe, you probably could make more money at a competitor. I wish you all the luck in the world. Should we say Friday is your last day?”

     5) They don't root for others. Sad but true: Toxic employees treat people above them like gold but their teammates like crap. They are too busy to chip in and help others out, you never hear them cheering for teammates to win, and in most cases they have only a superficial veneer of interest in your clients. 

     Now, should the Toxic be fired on the spot? Not necessarily. I always recommend coaching first. Some leopards can change their spots when confronted about their behavior. Of course the sad truth is most won’t. Give it a few weeks and then it’s time

    to make a permanent change. While I never like to see anyone lose their job, most leaders I speak with admit they are quick to hire but slow to fire. It should be the other way around when dealing with the Toxic. 


Share this Article



  • "We not only went 3 for 3 but I'd say they were all home runs! Thanks for your help on the speakers. It was a key and very positive component of our c...
  • "My entire team has enjoyed the experience of working with you and ESB more than words can express. Everything was handled in a professional and timel...
    Cregger Company
  • "You made my job so much easier! You are the only bureau I will use."     
    Sigma Systems
  • Everything went really well and we really enjoyed having Jack Uldrich as our speaker!  He was entertaining and funny and provided great examples....
    Novo Nordisk
  • "As I mentioned before, your engagement model was incredibly easy to work with, and I know we came to you on short notice!  I would highly recomm...
    Capitol One
  • "I appreciate your recommendations.  In addition, you are always a pleasure to work with and understand the pains of an over worked meeting plann...
  • "OMG Richard! As always you make me look like a rock star. Every single speaker we selected hit it out of the park. Thank you again. Can't even say wh...
    Arizona Hospital and Healthcare Assn.
  • "I will be sure that all involved know what a wonderful resource you have been. The universe smiled on me when I discovered Executive Speakers and you...
    Ocala Eye
  • "Your tenacity and persistence in staying in touch with us is a model example of good salesmanship and partnering.  I will be using you as an exa...
    Schneider Electric
  • We truly appreciate the excellent support and attention to detail we have received from Executive Speakers Bureau.  They have provided us with so...
  • "Everyone loved Bob and he was so nice on site. Thank you for all you did. The process was so easy and we will definitely work with you again next yea...
  • The Nebraska Hospital Association along with numerous other state hospital associations have enjoyed a long-standing relationship with Executive Speak...
    The Nebraska Hospital Association
  • "The group that I work with to obtain all of my keynote speakers is Executive Speakers Bureau and I can tell you that I don’t like working with ...
    Indiana Youth Institute
  • "Richard, Your ability to put me in front of just the right group again and again, is nothing short of amazing. You work your tail off, you sweat the ...
    Alan Hobson
  • I’ve used the services of a number of speakers bureaus in the past. However, my current experience working with the Executive Speakers Bureau ha...
  • Our bank has held an annual business and economic conference for the past 9 years.  We have worked with Executive Speakers every year and I have ...
    First Midwest Bank
  • "Let me tell you that the ESB team and Christine's responsiveness, follow up, proactivity, industry knowledge, and overall customer service was phenom...
    Clear Link
  • Thanks to Richard and Jo for all the coordination. Another homerun from Executive Speakers Bureau!  
    Wisconsin Hospital Association
  • "I LOVE this list that you sent me! I emailed several different places on Tuesday an...
  • "My mind was very much at ease knowing that Jack Uldrich was so well prepped.  I will definitely use your agency again."  
  • Thank you to both of you for everything surrounding Mr. Will as our special guest. I suspect, soon, I will be in touch regarding our next event. 
    Oxford Financial
  • "I wanted to share with you feedback of my experience in working with Executive Speakers Bureau.. Very responsive and detail oriented.  When I wa...
  • "I want to thank you for helping with our Principals Day event. Marshall Goldsmith was excellent. Not only is Marshall the consummate professional, be...
    Burns & McDonnell
  • I want to thank you for all of your assistance you and Jenny were wonderful. If it had not been for you sending me suggestions I would not have found ...
    West Virginia Tourism
  • "WOW, is all I have to say and thank you!  Our event was a huge success and you never steer me wrong, both David Cottrell and Ryan Estis were exc...
  • Thanks to you, Jo and the rest of your team.  You are the BEST.  Knowing you are behind a speaker allows us the luxury of concentrating on o...
    Ohio Hospital Association
  • The event was EASY Cake! and it went over very very well.  Thank you so much for the help and organization, it made my life very easy. 
    Boys & Girls Club
  • "This year’s speaker line-up at our Summer Meeting was the best yet. We knocked it out of the park. Thanks for all your help securing such excel...
    North Carolina Hospital Association
  • We could not have done it without you.  Thank you for the outstanding suggestions.  The speakers were by far the best we have ever had.
  • "Thanks to you and Jo for all your efforts.  Connie Podesta and Roger Dow were great!"   
    National Apartment Association
  • "It was a great pleasure to work with you in making this event a success. Your professionalism, attention to detail and response to all my questions a...
    Fellowship of Christian Athletes
  • "Let me just say again, what a pleasure it is to work with you and ESB. You really make it harder for others to reach the bar."
  • As always, you deliver excellent service. Thanks!
    Camden National Bank
  • "Thank you so much for all your help in putting this together on such short notice. I will definitely use your services again in the future."
    Applied Materials
  • "I shared with Kaplan [Mobray] that I had never had this type of experience with ANY vendor I have worked with in the past. Your responsiveness to urg...
    Gates Corp.
  • You ladies really are the BEST!  After this event I am going to be on the hunt for keynote speakers in May.  I really want to work with you ...
  • "We loved our speakers. Thanks to you and your team for your outstanding service and thank you for your patience!"

    National Association of the Blind
  • Bridgeworks was awesome!!! Great feedback from all!! Thanks for all of your collaboration and positive we'll use you in the future.  
    Johnson & Johnson
  • “Thank you guys it was a pleasure working with you.... You made the whole process easy. Thanks again”
Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Need Suggestions? Have Questions?

Call us to discuss how we can help find the right speaker for your organization.

Get Ideas in 2 Hours or Less

Please fill in information below

Executive Speakers Bureau consistently receives praises about our speed and efficiency. From the beginning of your event planning, our extensive online speaker database and resourceful staff allow us to quickly equip you with the best speaker for your event.

Need a last minute speaker? No worries. Our speed and efficiency help us give you ideas for speakers in two hours or less.

Privacy by SafeSubscribeSM