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What should you do with toxic employees?

As a non-technical founder I am relying on this CTO that is helping with building up the product. However, the attitude and behaviour of this individual is completely toxic to the environment and the culture. In my case it is a little bit more difficult as this person hired the entire engineering team. If I fire him I fear going out of business given the fact that we are an engineering driven company. Thanks for your help.

18 Replies

Brian McConnell
6
0
Brian McConnell Entrepreneur
Head of Localization at Medium.com
This is easy. Fire him. Now. Toxic managers will kill your company. He may have hired the engineering team, but he will also be responsible for them quitting. Talented engineers know they do not need to put up with an abusive work environment, and will leave as soon as they can. They will also tell people in their network to avoid this individual, which will poison efforts to recruit replacements.
Nigel Dessau
2
0
Nigel Dessau Entrepreneur
Chief Marketing Officer at Wellsmith, LLC
I did this episode of The 3 Minute Mentor on Passive Aggressives but it would work for other toxic people. Remember, as my old boss said, "if you can't change the person, change the person."http://the3minutementor.com/episode-27/
Philip S. Miller
0
0
Philip S. Miller Entrepreneur
Founder at Hempies™ Paper Inc.
You must perform a CTOectimy. Suggest reading up on Machiavellian tactics and hiring a good strategy lawyer/manager if you aren't up to it. You may have a confidence issue as well. A good intuitive counselor or life coach can help with that, or maybe you have an Uncle that can give you a good pep talk??? If you can afford it I know an amazing person but she ain't cheap. Saved my life and company though.
Steve Everhard
1
0
Steve Everhard Advisor
All Things Startup
Toxic because he isn't working well with you or them? You brought this person into the organisation so was this toxicity always there or has it developed? What is the root and can it be turned around? Does this person not understand what non engineering team members are contributing? Try communication first. If theyre toxic to the engineering team but making a key contribution then think about adapting their role after discussion. Can you use a team member to buffer their input?

Ultimately it is a question of contribution and fit but test you're assumption that they are toxic and that it isn't simply a communication issue.


Chuck Bartok
3
0
Chuck Bartok Entrepreneur
Marketing and Sales Manager at MD Building Systems of Florida, Inc
Who owns the Company?
Fire employees quickly who do not add to the success pattern.
I suggest YOU get to know that engineering group personally and do not be afraid to FIRE some of them.
What has business deteriorated into?
A social get together?
Remember the golden Rule:
The person with the Gold rules.
I assume you sign the paychecks?
Mack Reed
0
0
Mack Reed Entrepreneur • Advisor
Product Strategist, Humanist and Maker
If he's your co-founder and you believe he could change with sufficient motivation, you should have a full and frank discussion of the problem including the alternative, which is to put him into a role where his toxicity won't be as damaging, or to buy him out. Good luck. iPhoned.
Martin Omansky
0
0
Martin Omansky Entrepreneur
Independent Venture Capital & Private Equity Professional
Replace this CFO right away. If he is so poisonous to the environment, the engineering team probably has already picked up on his behavior. Start-ups have enough problems without fighting with team members. Sent from my iPhone
Roger Pavane -gamechanging mobile visionary
2
0
CRO CMO SVP Sales Growth & Marketing Leader Specializing In Software,Technology & Mobile Achieving Exceptional Results
I have seen this before and have a solution that is proven and worked in the past Consider hiring an external software development company that also provides software engineering. You can tell your CTO that you want to outsource some resources to save money. Have the external software development company do a complete source code review as part of the evaluation process. Sign a source code review and confidentiality agreement. Now your code is protected off site.
Trevor Doerksen
0
0
Trevor Doerksen Entrepreneur
CEO and Founder, Mobovivo
If the CTO is an engineer, he will more than likely behave professionally when you let him know you are going to make changes. To de-risk this situation, I like Roger's advice to do so some outsourcing. You could also do some code review, move everything to GitHub, or create a partnership with a 3rd party under NDA, etc. that will contribute in some way that requires access to the whole code base. Some of my clients require me to place code in escrow as part of the service agreement to protect them. Maybe you could get a gig where this is a requirement - that only costs a couple k.
Robert Shore
2
0
Robert Shore Entrepreneur
CEO at Market News Publishing Inc
I have been through this several times in startups and in operating companies.
I have read the responses to date and tried the lenient methods to my regret.
Dismiss him ASAP. The bad attitude will permeate your company for many years.
Eventually it will contaminate all your employees and exhaust you.
In my experience the longer you allow him to remain the greater the damage. In retrospect I would have been much better closing several of the startups rather than spend years trying to root out the bad attitudes.
In the operating company the tech was immediately dismissed and other employees noted that insubordination, back stabbing and playing politics was not tolerated.
The start up died with several million dollars in debt. The operating company is still going and stronger than ever.
PS dismissing is especially important if you are not the technical person.


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