Entrepreneurship · Entrepreneur

What should you do with toxic employees?

Veeshu mahajan SEO Specialist at Freelancer

September 17th, 2016

As a non-technical founder I am relying on this CTO that is helping with building up the product. However, the attitude and behaviour of this individual is completely toxic to the environment and the culture. In my case it is a little bit more difficult as this person hired the entire engineering team. If I fire him I fear going out of business given the fact that we are an engineering driven company. Thanks for your help.

Brian McConnell

September 17th, 2016

This is easy. Fire him. Now. Toxic managers will kill your company. He may have hired the engineering team, but he will also be responsible for them quitting. Talented engineers know they do not need to put up with an abusive work environment, and will leave as soon as they can. They will also tell people in their network to avoid this individual, which will poison efforts to recruit replacements.

Chuck Bartok Social Media Consultant, Publisher, and Contrarian Curmudgeon

September 17th, 2016

Who owns the Company?
Fire employees quickly who do not add to the success pattern.
I suggest YOU get to know that engineering group personally and do not be afraid to FIRE some of them.
What has business deteriorated into?
A social get together?
Remember the golden Rule:
The person with the Gold rules.
I assume you sign the paychecks?

Roger visionary CRO CMO SVP Sales Growth & Marketing Leader Specializing In Software,Technology & Mobile Achieving Exceptional Results

September 17th, 2016

I have seen this before and have a solution that is proven and worked in the past  Consider hiring an external software development company that also provides software engineering. You can tell your CTO that you want to outsource some resources to save money. Have the external software development company do a complete source code review as part of the evaluation process. Sign a source code review and confidentiality agreement. Now your code is protected off site. 

Robert Shore CEO at Market News Publishing Inc

September 17th, 2016

I have been through this several times in startups and in operating companies.  
    I have read the responses to date and tried the lenient methods to my regret.   
     Dismiss him ASAP.  The bad attitude will permeate your company for many years.  
      Eventually it will contaminate all your employees and exhaust you. 
    In my experience the longer you allow him to remain the greater the damage.    In retrospect I would have been much better closing several of the startups rather than spend years trying to root out the bad attitudes.   
      In the operating company the tech was immediately dismissed and other employees noted that insubordination, back stabbing and playing politics was not tolerated.  
     The start up died with several million dollars in debt.   The operating company is still going and stronger than ever.  
   PS dismissing is especially important if you are not the technical person.   

Nigel Dessau Chief Marketing Officer at Wellsmith, LLC

September 17th, 2016

I did this episode of The 3 Minute Mentor on Passive Aggressives but it would work for other toxic people. Remember, as my old boss said, "if you can't change the person, change the person." http://the3minutementor.com/episode-27/

Dave Perry Global Business Strategist & Technology Commercialization Consultant

September 17th, 2016

Veeshu, If you are an engineering-driven company and this CTO recruited the entire development team and you are concerned they will leave if you fire him then maybe it's possible that YOU are not aware of the real culture of the company? However, if you are right and the CTO is toxic to the culture then it's your duty to all of the employees to fire him. The other employees will not leave but will celebrate his departure. Dave

Steve Everhard All Things Startup

September 17th, 2016

Toxic because he isn't working well with you or them? You brought this person into the organisation so was this toxicity always there or has it developed? What is the root and can it be turned around? Does this person not understand what non engineering team members are contributing? Try communication first. If theyre toxic to the engineering team but making a key contribution then think about adapting their role after discussion. Can you use a team member to buffer their input?

Ultimately it is a question of contribution and fit but test you're assumption that they are toxic and that it isn't simply a communication issue.

Mike Jalonen Founder & CEO at Trio

September 18th, 2016

I understand your concern having been in this situation several times.  I think the feedback you received from the others is accurate.  If the CTO (or anybody) in the organization is toxic then you should confront the situation, have a serious open dialog about it ASAP.  If you can't agree to move forward then you should let that person go at all costs.  BUT...

I understand your concern and fear that you are are not technical and everything that was build would go to waste.  That would imply that their was something of value that was created by this person and their team (which may leave with this person given they were brought in together).  The fact that their is value means their should be some sort of equity arrangement (either you paid salaries or equity).  If the company is moving forward, but just not with that CTO, wouldn't that person still want to reap the benefits of the company that helped build regardless?  It would be foolish for this person to sabotage things if they could still benefit by transitioning (as long as you help set the stage).

You can do a buy out, $x month for x time based on conditions of the company.  You can do an equity arrangement (with a buyout on top).  This is why it is SO COSTLY to get the wrong people on the bus initially but it happens to the best of us.  I'm sure that their are lots of lessons learned here (their has been for me).  But now is the time to do something about it.  


Raja Kumar Code Surgeries | Micro Fixed Bids | Scala | Go | Kotlin | ReactJS | Android | Java | NFR Doctor

September 19th, 2016

We know how to aid you in this situation.. let us get get connected..

In short this is our recommendation in general to startups as toxicity is given in startup pressures..

Never hire senior teams in startups unless proven to be a wavelength match. Toxic is very subjective... more so when two seniors exists.. best is to work on a weekly basis with senior talent first, see if there is mutual match for few weeks and then both decide to work the same way or in any other forms.. Each week is a deliverable week..to understand either side through results of business value.. 

Martin Omansky Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional

September 17th, 2016

Replace this CFO right away. If he is so poisonous to the environment, the engineering team probably has already picked up on his behavior. Start-ups have enough problems without fighting with team members. Sent from my iPhone