Diagnosing Toxicity Within Your Virtual Teams

And 5 steps for an immediate fix!


Have you discovered toxicity within your virtual teams? Read on for 5 possible symptoms and 5 steps to quickly return your team to a cohesive, thriving team.


Just recently a colleague, mentor and friend said to me “Kimberli sometimes companies have to make hard choices.  As leaders, we need to understand when it is time to CLEAN HOUSE.”  Diane Gibson, DMG Consultancy


I have personally witnessed virtual teams literally fall apart because of very silly miscommunications. Fall apart because someone’s ego is squished. Fall apart because Leadership fails to exert humility and properly convey the company mission and vision statements. Fall apart because of time zones. Fall apart because of cultural biases. Fall apart because of generational differences. Fall apart because of a lack of fundamental understanding of the word TEAM.


toxicity on virtual teams


Discourse on a virtual team is much more difficult to detect than with in-person teams. We don’t have body language to help us, and we are missing 3D eye contact. We may have tone of voice to help us understand if a team member has become toxic, however, without the tie to body language and eye contact, the forensic science of diagnosing virtual team toxicity becomes much more of an art than a skill.

Here are the five most prominent warning signs there is toxicity within your virtual team


  1. Your employees and/or contract employees send negative email messages to the entire team instead of a private email to the leader directly.  This conveys utter disrespect.
  2. You receive direct complaints from team members regarding communication and performance issues about other team members that should be able to be resolved with direct team member to team member communication.
  3. Employees and/or contract employees who normally respond ASAP to text messages and/or email suddenly take longer periods of time to respond.
  4. Employee engagement on social media suddenly drops with no explanation from individual team members who have regularly engaged in the past.
  5. Team members spend less and less time engaging in team meetings, debriefs, forums, etc.


As the Leader of the TEAM you must be willing to reach out proactively and give the potentially toxic team members the opportunity to respond. As Diane Gibson mentioned earlier, you will need to possess the skill set to determine very quickly whether or not the level of toxicity may be mitigated or you may need to cut ties all together and move on with new, healthy team members. In my opinion, humans who choose (or are called) to lead must develop a strong sense of self esteem all the while striving to make decisions to benefit the entire tribe. Once you throw yourself out there to the world negative feedback is inevitable (thick skin required.)

Here are the five steps to reduce toxicity on your virtual team


  1. Reach out proactively to team members and ask for their feedback on any issue that may make them feel engaged.
  2. Schedule private time with team members to allow them to vent and discuss any potential issue
  3. Give public praise for a job well done
  4. Create a TEAM Operating Agreement in advance of building your virtual team:  Here is a link to a TOA created by Lee Johnsen:  I highly recommend using this agreement in advance and/or as soon as you are able
  5. Schedule regular follow up meetings so your TEAM members feel they are valued and heard and seen.


  1. Seek to understand the individual team member goals and strive to provide the tools to allow them to succeed.


toxicity on virtual teams


Here is a link for TEAM building suggestions


If you have a story to tell regarding your own journey with toxic teams, please share to info@everythingwebinar.com. We may feature your story in our next newsletter!  Sign up for the newsletter here 

If you are part of an Executive Leadership TEAM and you are struggling with creating a cohesive virtual team please feel free to book a coaching session here








About the author: Kimberli Allen

About the author: Kimberli Allen

Kimberli Allen, Principal and Founder of Everything Webinar, LLC, is an international communication and presentation skills expert. She has acquired 20+ years experience as a corporate trainer, coach and entrepreneur (both virtual and in-person). Kimberli has designed numerous customized training programs, worked with such clients as Nike, Cisco, GlaxoSmithKline, and TAB Products, and personally coached thousands of clients in more than 32 countries. When Kimberli is not leading a training program or launching new products to enhance communication and presentation skills around the globe, you can find her competing in a duathlon or triathlon with her two daughters.