Communication · Company Culture

How do you deal with a high performer that creates a toxic startup culture?

tripti khanna HR Manager | 6+ Years Experience |

March 17th, 2017

We have this colleague in the team that is one of the biggest producers in the company by a mile. However, he does whatever he wants in terms of schedule, etc but always delivers a high performance on the tasks that he is assigned.

However, this type of behavior is not well received by other employees. Now they start to think it is ok to arrive late to the office, take vacations without being in communication, etc. For other members it is creating some resentment.

How do you approach this issue? My fear is that this high performer might get offended and leave the company which will have a negative impact on our overall revenues.

David VomLehn Why would you prefer a computer that breaks?

March 17th, 2017

A simple-minded person, such as myself, might think you might want to make your other employees more like your high performer rather than your high performer like the others.

So, there are some specific questions about your posting:

  • If your high performer does so well with they hours he/she is working, why aren't other employees allow to do the same?
  • Experts often recommend that people not take their work with them on vacation; is there a business reason why things can not be planned ahead of time and this flexibility provided to all employees?

It is true that employees do need to coordinate their schedules so that they can work together when it is required. This is often only a fraction of an employee's time. It's also true that some situations require a way to contact employees in case of emergency. Yet, if you are in constant contact with an employee during their vacation, it's not much of a vacation, is it?

No matter what you do, I suggest you seriously examine your basic policies and honestly assess whether they are really serving your company. From your brief description, I question whether they are.

John Anderson

March 17th, 2017

Agree with the other comments. Sounds like your "toxic" employee is the one that is exemplifying the true nature of a startup. Performance is everything. And if they can deliver above average results in say 70% the time it takes others, who's fault is that? Sounds like your high performer has the startup attitude, your other employees who are offended by his behavior have the attitude of someone pulling a paycheck, not building a company.

Leon Chen Mobile Applications Engineer at Wave HQ

March 17th, 2017

When your other employees start perform as well as the high performer, then they can start complaining about the special treatment the higher performer gets.

Until then, the problem lies not on the high performer but the attitude the average employees.

Mitch Harris Co-founder/CTO of QPID Heath

March 17th, 2017

There's toxic and there's toxic.

There's the employee who belittles others, is confrontational, manipulative, intolerant, or makes others feel bad, hurting their morale and performance. That person is poisoning your system. They should be isolated from the others (some kinds of behavior are obviously terminable like many kinds of harassment). High performance does not make that behavior allowable. Isolation or termination is the approach.

Then there's the, let's say, lax employee (you only give two features to go on, arriving late and incommunicative over vacation). If these two features are in your job description or at least verbally well known to all employees, and your company culture is strict, then this employee should be made aware of the infractions and helped (advised) to follow.

But to everyone else's point, you're in a startup not a mature highly scheduled assembly line where strict schedules are necessary. Everyone is (probably) working at the office or at home and schedules -should- be fluid. Also, if management considers all employees interruptible on vacation, then that flexibility is inconsistent with strict office hours.

Anyway, the best approach to all this is communication. Are the other employees openly jealous? Is this one employee aware of the impact? Like the other answers, do you think that maybe everyone should have the same flexible allowances (which might make the all better performers)?


March 19th, 2017


In my experience, it is indeed rare that all comments to a question state the same solution, as it is happened here.

I am not going to repeat everyone else here, with which I absolute agree. I only wanted to ask that you connect me with your "toxic" employee! I would LOVE to have another high performer on my team!


Garnet Bartlett Product designer/business owner

March 20th, 2017

Expectations are set from the top down, and for some reason your staff think the expectation is to 'show up' rather than 'perform'. Change that expectation and let people know where there performance ranks. Those left still complaining are the toxic ones.

Steve Procter ... Venture Technologist Tech Entrepreneur seeks sales & referral partners for

March 18th, 2017

I love this question. It is one where the poster was possibly expecting validation that this toxic person needs pushing out. But in fact the person has highlighted just how bad everyone else in the business seems to be and if anyone should be fired it is them. But of course it is not that simple.

Tripti you are a hr manager so more qualified than many of us to work out the exact process. But it seems to me this is a chance to sit everyone in a room and get this issue out in the open. it may turn out that flexitime should be offered to everyone. Maybe you need one on one meetings and is it time for appraisals?

some individuals are very special and allowances need to be made. Genius is hard to manage. But get it right and clearly as you find they can produce more than everyone else in the office put together.

Marcus Bassillio Hungry learner, action lover, eager to help growth

March 19th, 2017

People should mind their own business or work harder them selves. Or they need to start shadowing him so they can learn how a real producer operates.

If everyone was more focused on the job at hand, they wouldn't have time to notice. After he's gone, they might start complaining about the owner working less hours than they're.

ArLyne Ph.D. Diamond Associates: Consultants to Management - Transforming Individuals and Organizations by cooperative interaction

March 18th, 2017

These are my favorite people to work with - they have incredible talent, intelligence and disrespect for others. I teach them how their attitude is hurting themselves and help them modify it so that they can get what they want out of life - the workplace.

Must be handled because otherwise it poisons others.

Miles Fidelman

March 20th, 2017

A startup can't afford anything except star performers. I'd think about telling your other employees to shape up or ship out.