Toxic Workplace Report: 2019 | Fierce



In new research from Fierce Conversations, nearly 3 in 4 wish their companies were less tolerant of toxic employees, and are skeptical change occurs once confronted

Seattle, WA, November 19, 2019 — Fierce Conversations has found that the number one response to coping with toxic employees is to ignore them, with 44 percent of respondents noting this is their preferred approach, according to the company’s latest toxic workplace research. When Fierce asked this same question in 2017, 50 percent responded the same way, indicating some progress is being made on employees feeling empowered to address issues head-on. Addressing behavior with management comes in second, with confronting them the third-most preferred option.

Having a negative attitude tops the list of most toxic traits of employees, followed by being manipulative, and not being a team player. The leadership development and training company is focused on changing the way people communicate with each other, including the way organizations handle the impact toxic employees have on an organization.

“Toxic employees are wreaking havoc on workplaces of all sizes and across industries, yet we are not seeing necessary efforts to combat these problem employees,” said President of Fierce Conversations. “The fact that confronting problematic employees directly is people’s third choice of action should be concerning to all organizational leaders. The amount of time and energy that can be saved by providing employees the skills and empowerment to address issues head-on, before they become larger issues, is critical.”

There is little doubt that a key reason ignoring toxic employees is the preferred response because almost three-fourths (72 percent) of those surveyed say toxic employees change their behavior never or infrequently when addressed. Further, when asked what they believe management does once alerted of a toxic employee, the number one response is that the manager confronts the broader issues at team meetings — rather than talking to the toxic person one-on-one — followed by doing nothing. The third response is confronting the employee directly, followed by encouraging the person who reported the toxic behavior to confront the employee directly.

“The bottom line is that when employees do speak up about someone exhibiting toxic behavior, and then nothing happens, it creates an environment where people feel defeated and that their voices, their happiness, don’t matter,” continued Engle. “Company leaders must take every concern seriously and follow-up after an issue is addressed. This doesn’t mean leadership has to handle each and every complaint directly. By equipping employees with the skills to address the issues themselves first, many issues can be resolved quickly and efficiently, before they become even greater concerns.”

Allowing toxic employees to be ignored is also causing major long-lasting problems for companies. Employees not only report an increase in stress at work but also:

  • A decrease in overall job satisfaction
  • A decrease in team morale
  • An increase in wanting to leave their jobs

Nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of respondents say they wish their employers were less tolerant of toxic employees.

When it comes to tolerating toxic employees, most believe men and women are treated the same, on average. However, there are clear differences in perception based on gender: 34 percent of women say men are more tolerated, with just 12 percent believing their own gender is. The reverse is true for men: 33 percent of men say women are more tolerated, and just 15 percent believe men are more tolerated.

To download our infographic highlighting our most critical findings, click here.


Fierce Conversations is a training company that teaches you how to have effective conversations. Fierce has trained hundreds of thousands to become expert conversationalists who save their organizations time and money by knowing what to talk about, how to talk about it and why it matters for the bottom line. Fierce programs have been successfully implemented at blue-chip companies, nonprofits, and educational organizations worldwide, including Capital One, Wal-Mart, CHRISTUS Health, Coca-Cola, CARE, and Verizon. The company has been honored as an Inc. 500|5000 company eight times, named to’s “Companies to Watch” list twice, and has won numerous awards for top companies to work for in the state of Washington.

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