Makarios Consulting Blog

Why You Must Confront Toxic Superstars

You’ve met toxic superstars. He’s the killer developer, spinning out innovative code that generates big-time bucks for the business – but he’s arrogant, cocky, and entitled to the nth degree. She’s the account rep who uses her highly advanced persuasion skills with prospects and effortlessly breaks every sales goal – but she treats her co-workers horribly back at the office.

Leaders tend to avoid addressing toxic superstars because it is stressful to tell someone who is exceeding every business goal that their attitude and mannerisms stink. Nor do leaders want to let the superstar go, because they are scared (sometimes legitimately) that the business will suffer if they do. They figure, “Well, the numbers are coming in. Revenue’s up. I guess I just have to deal with a prima donna on my team.”

Don’t kid yourself. Keeping a toxic superstar on staff will ultimately hurt your business more than help it because:

  • A toxic superstar sends the message that being a jerk is accepted and acceptable.
  • A toxic superstar drives employee churn because people get fed up working with him or her.
  • A toxic superstar contributes to the development of a toxic culture where frustration, anxiety, and anger become the norm.
  • A toxic superstar undercuts leadership credibility because people see the leader doing nothing to address the cancer that is destroying the team.

Confronting the toxic superstar is the only solution. If he or she is willing and able to shed  toxic behaviors, you get the best deal in the world: a superstar who is willing to live your values. If you have to get rid of the toxic superstar because he or she refuses to change, you open the door to a healthier environment and culture where every team member can thrive and work together to drive positive business outcomes.

The bottom line is simple: there is no place in a successful business for a toxic superstar.