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How to Resolve Toxic Employee Relations

how to resolve toxic employee relations

Although conflict resolution can be a difficult aspect of an HR representative’s job, it should never be ignored. Negative workplace conflicts that turn to toxic employee relations can seriously undermine your team’s performance and productivity. The estimated economic cost of workplace toxicity-induced staff turnover is $223 billion.


Resolving harmful work conflicts requires a strategic and proactive approach to addressing underlying issues. The goal is to create a workplace culture that fosters respect, collaboration, and productivity. Consistent and fair enforcement of policies, coupled with proactive measures, can help resolve toxic employee relations and prevent them from reoccurring. 


What Are Considered Toxic Employee Relations?


A toxic culture can flow from the top down or originate with non-managerial employees. A toxic relationship is one in which there is a harmful, negative dynamic between individuals. 


A toxic workplace environment can include offensive and aggressive leadership, threatening behavior from managers and co-workers, harassment, bullying, and ostracism. 


How Toxic Employee Relations Manifest


Toxic employee relations can manifest in the following ways:


Why It Is Important to Solve A Toxic Work Culture


No one likes a grade school bully, and that sentiment carries over into the workplace. A toxic work environment can cause an erosion of trust, negatively influence employees, and impact employee engagement, all of which can create a higher turnover rate. 


According to Laura Crawshaw, Ph.D., “Failure [of employers to manage toxic behavior] will be costly, calculated in terms of attrition of good employees, paralysis of production, and a perception on the part of employees that management fails to intervene because they are weak or tacitly condone toxic behavior.”


Ways to Mitigate Employee Conflicts


Training and Policies


Your organization’s HR department should have clear policies on what is and is not acceptable behavior for employees and managers. These policies will ensure your organization adheres to all applicable laws and remains compliant. Leaders should also communicate expectations regarding behavior and workplace conduct; doing so helps your team become familiar with the company's policies and code of conduct. Explicit expectations also reinforce the company's commitment to maintaining a positive and respectful work environment. 


Furthermore, HR should have a clear understanding of what behaviors are considered unacceptable or toxic. Equipping employees with the skills to constructively address conflicts can help keep toxic relations from happening in the first place. 


It’s also important to set new hires up for success and ensure they have a clear understanding of the organization’s policies and operating norms. “New employees should meet with their manager for week one and then meet with different leaders for the 30-, 60- and 120-day check-ins. This will ensure leadership understands the new employee's work and life goals, plans to achieve them, and what leaders and the organization can do to support their growth,” according to Lyssa Hansard, Cura HR, LLC.


Record Keeping and Confidentiality


Conduct a thorough investigation into specific incidents and ensure a fair and unbiased approach during the investigation process. HR should keep detailed records of incidents, including dates, times, locations, and individuals involved. Documentation of the impact of these incidents on the work environment, team morale, and productivity is also important. 


Investigations can help companies identify and resolve internal problems before they become widespread. For everyone’s protection, investigations must be prompt and thorough. Every complaint should be met with confidentiality, and protection should be provided to the complainant and the accused. Once the interview process is complete, a decision needs to be made to determine what actions to take. 




Encourage open communication between employees and HR and let them know it is a safe and confidential space for employees to express their concerns. It is helpful to provide a variety of venues for employees to voice complaints. Additionally, let the complainant know that appropriate steps are being taken without divulging details that would compromise confidentiality.


Keep the lines of communication open by giving effective employee feedback. When given properly, feedback can encourage employees to grow and become more engaged in their roles, which leads to greater job satisfaction and better communication between parties. A productive organization is one filled with people who feel passionate about their jobs and supported by their managers. Knowing how to offer constructive feedback is a learned skill that will benefit your entire organization. 




A mediator’s ultimate goal is to get the individuals involved to change how they interact with one another. An experienced mediator will encourage them to stop thinking about past arguments, slights, disagreements, and other negative behaviors as a first step toward encouraging more positive thinking. HR leaders can act as mediators since they typically know the individual’s personalities, work styles, and other traits. However, there is a fine line for HR because biased opinions can defeat the purpose of mediation.


Organizations may also consider mediation sessions facilitated by a neutral third party. Mediation can help individuals express their concerns and work toward a resolution. The role of a mediator is to establish a climate where open and respectful communication can thrive and where parties are empowered to seek mutually acceptable solutions.


Let Cura HR Help Foster Healthy Employee Relations


A supportive working environment and positive relationships can significantly enhance our experience of work; toxic employee relations can seriously undermine it. 


Creating a company culture that encourages employee connections and fosters a sense of community can have lasting and widespread impacts on your organization. This is especially important in today’s remote and hybrid business world.


Are you ready to learn more about how Cura HR can help support employee relations in your organization? Get in touch today.

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