Killing Company Culture: The Impact of Rewarding High-Performing Toxic Employees

Rewarding Toxic Employees


Success in a business environment often pivots on productivity, profitability, and performance. But at what cost? In the relentless pursuit of these goals, organizations sometimes make the grave error of rewarding high-performing employees without considering the impact on the company culture. When those high performers demonstrate toxic behavior, the fallout can be far-reaching, detrimental, and ironically, counterproductive.


The Hidden Danger of Toxic High Performers

In every organization, there are employees who, on paper, perform extraordinarily well. They close deals, hit targets, and exceed expectations in their specific roles. They are often praised and rewarded, and why not? They bring tangible value to the company. But lurking beneath the surface, these individuals may be cultivating a toxic work environment.

Toxic high performers, though excellent in their roles, often create an atmosphere of negativity, competition, and tension. They may use manipulation, bullying, or other harmful tactics to maintain their performance. While these employees deliver short-term wins, they subtly undermine the company culture in the long run.


Company Culture: The Foundation of Success

Company culture is more than just a trendy buzzword; it’s the lifeblood of any successful business. It’s the shared values, goals, attitudes, and practices that characterize an organization. A healthy company culture promotes collaboration, fosters a sense of belonging, and ultimately boosts productivity and profitability.

Ignoring toxic behavior from high performers sends a dangerous message that undermines the very essence of a positive company culture. It tells other employees that respect, teamwork, and fairness are secondary to individual performance. It can lead to decreased morale, increased turnover, and overall stagnation within the organization.


Rewarding Toxicity: A Short-Term Gain, Long-Term Pain

Rewards and recognition are potent tools for motivating employees. But rewarding toxic high performers sends the wrong message. It inadvertently encourages detrimental behavior, further perpetuating the toxicity.

Recognizing these individuals can create a facade of success, but beneath the surface, it’s eating away at the company’s core values. Employees become disengaged and disillusioned, eroding their loyalty and commitment to the organization.

The long-term costs of retaining and rewarding toxic high performers far outweigh the short-term benefits. The damage to the company culture, team dynamics, and employee morale can have significant repercussions on productivity and profitability in the long run.


A New Approach: Balancing Performance and Behavior

To maintain a healthy company culture, businesses need to reassess their reward systems. The focus should not only be on what is achieved but also on how it is achieved.

Organizations should establish a clear set of behavioral expectations that align with their core values. Performance evaluations should consider not only individual achievements but also how an employee contributes to the overall company culture. It’s about recognizing and rewarding the whole employee – their results, their attitude, their teamwork, and their adherence to the company’s values.


Conclusion: Protecting Company Culture

Rewarding toxic high performers may provide a quick boost to the bottom line, but it’s a dangerous game that can kill company culture. It’s crucial for organizations to strike a balance between recognizing high performance and fostering a positive, productive work environment. By doing so, they will cultivate a culture that promotes growth, encourages collaboration, and ensures long-term success.

In the end, a company’s most valuable asset isn’t the high-performing individuals – it’s the collective strength and resilience of its people, thriving in a healthy and positive company culture.



Basil Abbas

Basil is the Founder and CTO at ClockIt. With over 10 years of experience in the products space, there is no challenge that is too big in front of him be it sales, marketing, coding, etc. A people person and loves working in a startup for perfection.