Most of you reading this blog work for or run a small business.  You know that small businesses have unique challenges that large corporations don’t – cash flow, taxes, insurance, employees, family (those last 2 often overlap).  We were at a cook out last weekend and it struck me that many of our friends and family work for small businesses.  Although the companies are very different, the kinds of problems that they have are very similar.

My brother-in-law told us about a problem he has at work (the company he works for has about 10 employees).  Employees do some pretty specialized tasks, so once they’re trained, there isn’t a lot of turnover.  Here’s the problem: one of the employees is creating a toxic environment.  Employee X calls Toxicout “sick” at least once a week (often more), he’s good at looking busy but doesn’t actually get much done, and because he’s the only one who does certain tasks, he feels like his job is safe (meaning he’s arrogant).  My brother-in-law and his coworkers are finding it hard to be motivated at work knowing that this guy isn’t working and isn’t getting fired or even reprimanded.  He also knows that the boss is hesitant to fire Employee X for 2 reasons: he needs someone to do the tasks Employee X is trained to do and he doesn’t want to pay unemployment for the guy.

At a large corporation, this behavior wouldn’t be tolerated.  But in a small business, where everyone is an important part of the team, and where losing an employee (even a toxic one) means a LOT more work for everyone else, the decision to fire someone is more difficult.  But think about the damaging impact a toxic employee has on your business:  good employees slack off because they see it being tolerated; good employees quit and find a better work environment elsewhere; productivity drops; your customers are dissatisfied with the drop in quality or timeliness; your sales decrease.  The toxicity affects all parts of your business.

Change can be hard, but don’t be afraid to make the right move for your business.   That might mean firing a toxic employee, bringing in someone new, or even refreshing every-day tasks!