Every team heading in the wrong direction has them—toxic teammates. They are malcontents, agitators, and disruptors of harmony. As the expression goes, they seem to have a problem for every solution.

What to do about them?

One thing is for sure, if you do nothing, the problem will fester until your team’s culture fails.

It’s not necessarily as simple as just eliminating them from your team, either. That just may not be possible. Sometimes the only viable option is to confront them about their toxicity. But how do you do that?

Here are five ways you can confront a toxic teammate:

  1. The OREO Technique

Cut straight to the point. Tell them what it is they are doing that is detrimental to the team. But then follow it up with a statement about the value they bring to the team. After you’ve done that, go back and restate the detrimental issue along with a brief explanation of why their actions are problematic.

Example: You are repeatedly showing up late. No doubt about it, you work extremely hard once you’re here. But you are repeatedly showing up late, and it is causing our training sessions to get off to a slow start.


  1. The SANDWICH Technique

State something good. State the toxic behavior. State something else good. Toxic individuals are more likely to listen to what you have to say if the first words out of your mouth are complimentary, especially if your choice in words strokes their ego.

Example: You’re the fastest player on our team. But you only go half-speed during drills and that keeps us from getting to practice against really fast competition. We’re not used to defending speed when it comes game time. There is no player in our league that is faster than you.


  1. The SWEET ‘N SOUR Technique

Of the three “food” techniques, this may be the best option. Make a statement about something you’ve observed them doing well, then confront them with the issue.

Starting the confrontation with a negative statement could cause the listener to put up a wall and not be receptive to hearing anything further you have to say. Likewise, ending the confrontation with a positive statement, may keep them from grasping the severity of the issue.

The Sweet ‘n Sour technique lets them know you care enough about them to acknowledge something they’re doing well, while still leaving them to ponder the bitterness of their toxicity.

Example: You are by far our most talented player. But you have to stop second-guessing the coach behind his back. Right or wrong, it’s dividing our team and keeping us from all being on the same page.


  1. Group It

There is strength in numbers and there is a reason group interventions are effective. If an individual’s behavior is truly toxic, then there are likely to be other members of your team who are also bothered by that person’s behavior. Have them accompany you when you confront the toxicity. It will send a message that your contempt is not isolated, but rather shared by other teammates too.


  1. Put It in Writing

Follow up one of the aforementioned techniques by handing the individual a written statement with the same points you just verbally made. Putting it in writing brings another sense into the equation—sight. The more senses involved, the more likely we are to remember things.

A written statement also gives the individual a recap to refer back to after the confrontation is over. The emotion of the initial confrontation may cloud the message, but this technique adds clarity and context once the dust settles and toxic teammates are left alone with their thoughts.


  1. Video It

If a picture is worth a thousand words, a few minutes of HD video at 60 frames per second equates to literally hundreds of millions of words. With the availability of smartphones, it shouldn’t be too hard to capture your teammate’s toxic behavior on camera.

Letting the individual view the footage you captured with their own eyes may prove to be exceptionally beneficial. People are more apt to trust what they see than what we tell them. Wait for the right moment, and get it on camera.


What we say is important. But many times, how we say it can be more important. Choose the method that works best for your situation…but care enough about your team to take action and confront the source of its toxicity. Good teammates must have the courage to confront.

As always, remember: Good teammates care. Good teammates share. Good teammates listen. Go be a good teammate.

Lance Loya is the world’s preeminent authority on the good teammate mindset. He is a college basketball coach turned author, advocate, and professional speaker, who inspires TEAMBUSTERS to become TEAMMATES. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, or through his weekly Good Teammate blog.


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