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What if Your Star Performer is a Toxic Employee – the Brenda Syndrome

By September 17, 2013Nonprofit Management

photo credit: gcoldironjr2003 via photopin ccHave you ever asked yourself “When should I actually think about firing this employee?”  I seem to recall success expert Brian Tracy’s recommendation that this should occur the first time the question arises. I definitely don’t endorse that notion, but waiting too long can subject your organization or department to what I call the Brenda Syndrome.

Brenda worked for me for a while about twenty years ago.  She was really unbelievable.  Her productivity was in the top tier, she voluntarily took on technology and other special projects, and clients loved to work with her.  In short, she made herself indispensable – an admirable achievement for any team member.

But, there was always a current of negativity coming from her.  My partner and I repeatedly tried to address this in the context of our Core Values process, and her fellow workers grew increasingly uncomfortable with her “us versus them” attitude.

Finally, after months of working with her to improve her attitude, a situation arose where she was verbally abusive to a fellow worker. We decided to terminate her that evening.

Upon learning this news the next morning, the staff was quite concerned about who would take on Brenda’s tasks, what the clients would think, who would do the her work?

It turned out the work got done – it always does.  The miracle, however, was in how the team’s culture suddenly flourished.  It was as if they recognized the black cloud we came to label as the Brenda Syndrome had been lifted, and we could all feel better about our work.

So, firing people on impulse is never a good idea.  But allowing employees to poison the work place should never be tolerated.  I’ve learned from my Brenda Syndrome experience and I’m happy to report I’ve never suffered from it again.

photo credit: gcoldironjr2003 via photopin cc

Allan Huntley

Author Allan Huntley

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