It only takes one bad employee to ruin the company culture you’ve worked so hard to build over the years. What’s the best way to manage these toxic team members without sparking chaos?

We spoke with business leaders who know the ins and outs of management, and here’s what they had to say on the subject.

Step 1: Get to the Root of the Problem

“Identifying the cause of the toxic behavior allows leaders to determine how to move forward in solving the problem. They can provide the toxic employee with the proper resources to help mitigate the issue.” – Carrie Derocher, CMO of TextSanity

“Rather than involve the entire team in a problem with a toxic employee, it’s always better to go directly to the source of the issue. Have a talk, and explain the culture of the company, and how you want it to be a creative, positive space. Occasionally, you may even run into a person who is honestly not even aware of their actions and how they’re perceived. But, at any rate, you’ll be taking the first step toward overcoming the challenge.” – Ryan Rottman, Co-Founder and CEO of OSDB Sports

“One of the first steps to manage a toxic employee is to first understand them on a deeper and more intimate level. If the toxicity is new or the individual periodically stops and starts their negative behavior, chances are that the individual is struggling with a personal matter outside of the office. As such, reach out a helping hand, engage genuinely, and see how you can help.” – David Wolfe, Founder of Oliver’s Apparel

Step 2: Analyze Company Culture

“Never forget, organizational values start and end with you, the leader. Whether your example is good or bad, expect most employees to follow your lead.” – Mac Anderson, Founder of Simple Truths

“Nothing will make a great employee want to leave more than watching you tolerate a bad one.” – Investor and Marketing Specialist Perry Belcher

“Don’t assume toxic employees know their behavior is toxic. Make them aware of their behavior and how it’s affected the workplace, using specific examples. Tell them what type of improvements they should make and help them create a plan to meet those behavior goals.” – Rym Selmi, Founder of MiiRO

Step 3: Take a Tactical Approach

“Before terminating toxic employees, you need to justify it to legally protect yourself and the company. Document the toxic behavior and how you handled it. Make sure to include formal complaints, performance evaluations, peer reviews, and other relevant information.” – Michael Scanlon, CMO and Co-Founder of Roo Skincare

“Unfortunately, sometimes the best answer when dealing with a toxic employee is to cut ties. If they’ve proven that they are unwilling or incapable of making changes to their behavior, it could be in everyone’s best interest to let them go. You don’t want to allow one person to ruin a company’s culture or waste your time and energy trying to deal with someone who is determined to be negative.” – Benjamin Smith, Founder of Disco

“If you’ve got a toxic employee you’re managing, it’s important to document the behavior so there is a paper trail demonstrating an ongoing pattern. Keep a list of dates and descriptions of the behavior, along with anyone else who may have witnessed it. This will allow HR managers to establish when disciplinary action is needed, and what action(s) might be best.” – Eymel Daniel, Co-Founder of ForChics

Step 4: Open Up a Dialogue

“If you’ve ever heard the old saying about ‘one apple ruining the entire pile,’ well, it’s entirely true when it comes to business. A toxic employee can quickly spread dissent among other employees, which is why it needs to be stopped right away. In fact, letting your team know that there is no room for toxicity should begin during the hiring process, and it should be added to all of your applicable Standard Operating Procedures.” – Dylan Fox, Founder and CEO of Assembly AI

“One of the most effective yet simplest ways to manage a toxic employee is to have a private discussion with them. Even if the employee’s toxicity is well known in the greater depths of the office, chances are that their behavior has not been explicitly and directly mentioned to them. By having a frank and honest conversation, there is more room for reflection, as well as a path to improvement.” – Jameson Rodgers, Founder of CBDfx

“If a toxic employee is unwilling to change, then explain the potential consequences to them. Make sure those consequences put something important to them at stake. This should motivate them to change.” – Haim Medine, Creative Director and Co-Founder of Mark Henry Jewelry

“If you’re managing someone who is toxic, challenge them on how their behavior is negatively affecting those around them. Give specific examples about what you’re witnessing and describe how it impacts others. It doesn’t have to be a counseling session, but make it perfectly clear that this kind of behavior won’t be tolerated. Then give them a timeline for when change needs to be made and what will happen if those changes are not made.” – Courtney Buhler, CEO and Founder of Sugarlash PRO

Step 5: Make it a Team Effort

“Wait for employees to address the toxic employee first and then provide recommendations on how to handle the situation. Don’t let this problem distract you from performing your work responsibilities and slow productivity.” – Chris Vaughn, CEO of Emjay

“One of the most powerful things you can do as a manager and a leader is to equip your team with the ability to give productive feedback to one another. Employees very rarely come to work looking to do a bad job or trying to make work uncomfortable for one another. Most people just want to get their work done as well as they can in an environment that is cordial, or even better, enjoyable. The Center for Creative Leadership’s SBI model is probably the most powerful tool you can share with your team to get them to provide really great feedback.” – Joaquín Roca, Co-Founder and CEO of Minerva

“Unfortunately, toxic employee behavior can rub off on nearby coworkers. Separating toxic employees from their peers will prevent it from spreading. Moving their desks, reassigning projects, or implementing a hybrid workplace can alleviate the problem.” – Dr. Robert Applebaum, Owner of Applebaum MD

“It’s best to address toxicity in the workplace with direct feedback. A ‘toxic’ employee may be unaware of how their behavior impacts others and the greater workplace environment. Clear communication is key, helping the employee in question understand the problematic behavior with concrete examples, and then provide them with a path forward. Agreeing on a plan together, with associated benchmarks, can ensure there is no miscommunication.” – Liz Tomic, CGO at Flying Embers

Nobody likes dealing with a toxic employee. But if you apply these tips, you will handle things in a smart, safe manner that protects your organization and defuses the situation.