How To Deal With A Difficult Employee



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Dealing with difficult employees is unavoidable. But the good news is that taking the time to deal with a difficult employee can have a dramatically positive effect on the team. According to Harvard Business School professors Michael Housman and Dylan Minor, the productivity boost gained from removing toxic employees is greater than any boost gained from adding a star performer.

In this episode, we’ll lay out a five-step process to help deal with a difficult employee.

0:00 Introduction
1:57 Identify The Problem
3:46 Examine It Closer
4:51 Give Direct Feedback
5:45 Explain The Consequences
6:55 Document Everything
9:07 Conclusion

While these five steps may make the process easier, dealing with difficult employees is hard. It’s difficult and its’s draining. So, remember to give yourself some grace as well. No one handles it perfectly, and good leaders likely don’t want to become good at this part of their job. But it can’t be ignored. If it is, it will fester and infect the team. But if it is dealt with, it’ll improve the morale and performance of the team. It will help that difficult employee and the whole team do their best work ever.


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One of the world’s leading business thinkers, David Burkus’ forward-thinking ideas and bestselling books are helping leaders and teams do their best work ever.

He is the best-selling author of four books about business and leadership. His books have won multiple awards and have been translated into dozens of languages. His insights on leadership and teamwork have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, Harvard Business Review, USAToday, Fast Company, the Financial Times, Bloomberg BusinessWeek, CNN, the BBC, NPR, and CBS This Morning. Since 2017, Burkus has been ranked as one of the world’s top business thought leaders by Thinkers50. As a sought-after international speaker, his TED Talk has been viewed over 2 million times. He’s worked with leaders from organizations across all industries including Google, Stryker, Fidelity, Viacom, and even the US Naval Academy.

A former business school professor, Burkus holds a master’s degree in organizational psychology from the University of Oklahoma, and a doctorate in strategic leadership from Regent University.

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