Should I fire a toxic employee?

kitchen worker
Your kitchen workers will be happier if you remove a toxic employee. | Photo: Shutterstock.


I just took over as a GM at a busy restaurant. For the most part, I love my team in front-of-house but the kitchen is toxic. The chef is a nice guy but doesn’t have things under control and when I talk to the chef and cooks one-on-one they agree that one employee in particular is the problem. Can I cut him just on that basis?

– General Manager


As a culinary and hospitality educator, I am in the talent development business. I want to see the good in everyone and help them reach their potential. But I’m an educator, not a restaurant manager. Sometimes there are just bad people who you don’t want to poison the environment.

I have worked in a similar environment where there was one toxic employee stirring the pot. We finally got management in place who made the right decision to let that person go and it was like a cloud had lifted over the kitchen. Even their so-called friends were lighter, happier and working better as a team after the change.

If you are in an at-will environment, my advice is to terminate the problem employee. It is a good practice to keep thorough documentation of the factors and complaints that led to your decision, in close coordination with HR guidance. It’s not your job to make bad people into good people. If you can, that’s great, but if you can’t, you owe it to the rest of your team to cut out the problem. If you fail to act, you may lose your best people as collateral damage.

As always, this column is not legal advice and employment law varies. Consult with your attorney and restaurant association for your particular situation. More on handling problem employees here.