When the Skeletons Come Out – Dealing with Spiteful Employees


In some cases, you never know how someone truly feels until they are mad, then, at that moment the true feelings are subject to come out.

Once in a recent Leadership Coaching phone session my client (who is in training to run an inherited family business) and I was working on his next areas of focus. Suddenly, he placed me on hold. Upon his return, he sounded frustrated, one of his employees took it upon himself to take a unapproved break right in the middle of an important job. Now considering that this employee has done this before, my client decided to send him home early since he was not interested in completing the work for that day. As our conversation continued, the employee, not happy, still attempted to get in some extra time by waiting around before clocking out. In the process he was caught in his act and when confronted, he went into defensive mode and started disrespecting my client about his business, with an occasional challenge to his intelligence. In the process he said somethings that my client never realized that he did or that he tried to correct upon realization in the past. The employee’s true feelings about the client came out and the goal was to get him to stoop to his level and retaliate.

Sounds unusual? Not really. It is common to have an spiteful employee who challenges your actions no matter if your business is brand new or is a veteran to the business world.  When it comes to working with staff, there always is the possibility of having a bad apple out of the bunch. No one wants to go through this situation and there are times that we go through strenuous processes to make sure that we don’t hire them but somehow… they always make it through. So when this occurs how do I deal with a spiteful employee?

Let me explain…

Naturally, when someone offends you, your first fleshly reaction may be to put your hands on them and do something bad to them, BUT WAIT! You can’t because, one, you are a business owner, and two, there is nothing worse than attacking spite with spite. It can go from a potentially controllable situation to a mad war between Leonidas and Xerxes at the end of the 300 film. In other words, when you take steps to stoop to the negative level of your opposition at that moment, you are not only subject to lose your professionalism, but you can also lose value in your business as well to customers and other employees.

You have to make sure that in moments like this you have to take time to think. In the example above, the employee was mad because he was corrected on his action and he was caught doing wrong. So in his anger he decided to take my client for a ride as well. It is far too easy to fall victim to this game and when dealing with spiteful employees, you must remember the following;

1. Don’t take it personal. Some people will set you up to watch you fall.

2. Think before you act or speak. You don’t want to say something that will not you on the but later.

3. Keep a communication log. This will help you keep track of the situation, just in case you have to address the behavior on the future.

4. Stay firm but don’t disrespect. You have more to loose. You can stand your ground but you still must be professional. Plus, if it gets really out of hand, you can always call security or the local authorities to resolve the matter.

The goal is to not only stay safe, but to also stay in business. If the employee decided to leave don’t freight because you can always replace them. Even though my client was very frustrated, he never lost his cool and he stood his ground. After many failed attempts the employee decided to quit his job. Now my client is back focused and working on his plan b. You must remember to do the same.

Let me know!

Have you ever had a spiteful employee or co-worker? How did you deal with him or her?


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