How to Deal with Difficult vs. Toxic Employees

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How to Deal with Difficult vs. Toxic Employees


 Sean: Hey, guys. Welcome back to the Leadership Stack Channel. I’m your host, Sean, aka Mr. CEO at 22. And today we’re going to be discussing a very exciting topic about how to deal with difficult and toxic employees.

So if you’re a business owner or you have a colleague co-worker who you think is difficult or toxic, first off, what we will do is we’ll define what toxic and what difficult means.

So when you say it’s a difficult employee, it’s an employee that really does not want to follow rules, guidelines, is naïve of them or doesn’t really put in the time and attention to study them, is reclusive to himself or herself, doesn’t really talk with a lot of his or her colleagues. So this might be what you can consider a difficult employee.

This might also be an employee who doesn’t file things that he or she should file so that he or she could get the right salary at the right time. And it’s always the HR trying to get this employee to straighten up. That could be a difficult employee.

Now, a toxic employee is very different, but there’s a gray line that might be difficult for you to see between what difficult and toxic is. So for me, a toxic employee would be an employee that would come to a meeting, would give his or her ideas and say, yeah, you know, I’ll agree. I’ll commit to whatever the decision of the management is, the leaders are.

And then right after the meeting would say, actually, I don’t really understand why they decided like that. Actually, for me, it’s supposedly like this, like that and then would proceed to leak out information to the rest of his or her teammates and or gossip about it that actually I don’t agree with what he or she did. Our leader, I don’t agree with what they decided on. I think it should be like this. What do you think? Do you think it should also be like that? That for me is a toxic employee.

Another form of toxic behavior is when a person would bully or harass someone else, intimidate someone else, a colleague especially, or maybe someone in the lower ranks, like the security guard, the janitor, for me, that’s still a toxic behavior. It’s not something that ignites unity, that wants other people to be more united with the rest of the team.

Anything that keeps other people turned off from being engaged in a company is toxic behavior. For me, people who try to divide other groups or other people in the team, that’s toxic behavior. Those are the toxic employees that you have to watch out for.

Sean: And so how do you deal with these toxic employees? If you’re the business owner, first and foremost, I want you to realize it’s your fault that you hired them. It’s my fault if they’re here in my company because we allowed them to be here. That’s why your hiring process is so important and we do have videos about our hiring process. We can link to them in the description below or maybe in this video.

The hiring process is super important because that’s how you weed out difficult, potentially difficult and potentially toxic employees who will not fit your culture, who will do more damage than help you. See, you’re hiring people in order to have a better team, in order for them to help you with the workload, to think with you or to think for you.

But when you hire the wrong people, they’ll not just not do those things that you really need, they will damage your team and they will drag you down and they will slow you down. And instead of you growing your business and your people, what they’re going to be doing is they’re going to be giving you more problems to solve and you’re not going to be able to do what you really need to do and expand.

So realize first, it’s our fault as business owners, if they got into our team and we have to fix it. How do you fix difficult and toxic people? Well, the good news is for difficult people, what you can do is focus on explaining to them why they have to get their act together.

Always explain to them why you do certain things. It is not that pleasant when we go through the airport and have to go through so many checks. We have to take off our shoes, our belts, and our socks. You do all these things and you don’t understand why you need to do them because it’s not explained to you and it doesn’t feel pleasant, doesn’t it?

And I do believe that if only these airport officials or these airports themselves, the management would explain to us why we should take these things off, because these things can potentially happen and we get a better appreciation of why we should follow all of these rules, all of these security checks that we have to do. And that allows us to say, okay, that makes sense, I’m going to do that.

So I think difficult employees are people who just don’t understand why you have to do certain things. But if you allow them to learn and understand it, they could buy in. They could buy into your culture, into why you do things, into your processes, and they can commit finally and be a part of your united team.

Also, with difficult people, put systems and processes in place that would curb their behavior, that would allow them to change their behavior. There has to be penalties. There has to be sanctions.

If there are no penalties and sanctions at the end of the day, you and your team are going to suffer, especially if you have A players in your team or if you have maybe even B players who play very well as a team. They’re going to suffer if you don’t curb the behavior of the difficult employee.

Because they’re going to be seeing, why is our management allowing for this behavior in our company? Are they not going to do anything about this? Is this person a favorite of the manager or the leader? And you don’t want these thoughts to go around because it gets worse and worse. They are going to think 10x of the problem. Even if the problem is small, they’re going to blow it up in their heads.

So make sure you have rules and regulations that will not allow this difficult employee to keep on doing whatever difficult behavior it is that they’re manifesting outwardly towards their other peers.

So if you don’t have rules and regulations, you have to do them now and you have to communicate with your HR team to make sure to strictly implement these things. Then you explain why, everyday to your people, even to those who are not difficult employees. It’s very positive and beneficial for them to explain why you have certain rules, why you have certain regulations, why you do things the way you do, so that they can learn that you’re a reasonable employer, that you think ahead and they will have buy-in.

You see, difficult employees have bad behaviors, they’re bad fruits because of the roots. If the roots are wrong, then the fruits will be wrong also. So you have to tackle the root, not the symptoms, not the fruits, you tackle the roots. You explain why and you make sure that you give that certain nutrition and certain fertilizer in telling them, “This is why we do things. This is why you should do that. This is why we follow these guidelines.” So that their fruit will be changed into good behavior.

Now, for toxic employees, my advice is you pray for them. It’s impossible to change the heart of a person. We cannot do it. It’s not our job as human beings. Only God can do that. So if you really want to keep a toxic employee, you pray for that person night and day and allow God to work His magic.

But my advice to you, from a business owner to another business owner, if you have a toxic person in your team, warn them once, warn them about their behavior. “I will warn you once. And then we have to part ways because there is no way that we’re going to not agree on things and not commit on things and still work together. There is no way we can do that.”

So my advice for you, if you have a toxic employee, as soon as possible, let them go. As soon as legally possible. You warn them once and then that’s it. Every single day that you’re keeping that toxic employee, always remember they’re influencing someone in your team. Somewhere in your company, they’re influencing that person for the worse. That’s their nature. That’s why we call them toxic, because they’re poison and they will spread that poison and virus to other people in your company.

If you wanna make sure you have the best possible team that you yourself would love to work with and you would love your workspace and you’d love to go into the office every day, make sure it’s free of toxic people.

Difficult people, you can still change. Difficult people, you can still mentor, you can still teach. But toxic people, I don’t think it’s our job anymore to change their hearts. It is the Lord’s job. It’s God’s job. And they need to experience certain God-sized moments in their lives in order for them to change for the better. It’s not your job. I don’t think you need to redeem them. As a business owner, be responsible, protect your people and let the toxic people go.

That’s my advice. I hope that brought value to you. And if it did, please do support the channel. We have our online store at You can buy t-shirts and it’s going to be delivered to you or you can pick it up.

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Again, this is your host, Sean Si. Take care and I’ll see you in the next video.

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