Dealing with Hostile Employees

Organizations, big and small, never run out of employee problems. Unfriendly or hostile employees are a big drain for any organization, sapping the energy and time of others around them.

There are many kinds of hostile employees; some are passive-aggressive while others are not afraid to show that they’re bullies. When the attitude of an employee begins to have a greater effect towards the team, their leader should step in and take control. Not dealing with these matters can seriously damage the business.

Here’s a 5-Step Plan for Dealing with Bullies and Hostile Employees

Know Thy Bully

dealing with hostile employees

Find out who the bullies and problem employees are. Ask around, distribute an anonymous survey if you must. Find out which employees are voted “most difficult to work with” in the team. While you’re at it, look for employees who also show signs of hostility and disrespect towards management.


Document the whole ordeal if you can: who is involved, what triggered it, when it happened, statements from all parties involved. Documenting what happened will prevent he-said/she-said arguments once you try to get to the bottom of the argument.

The primary goal of the management should always be to retain good employees, and push them to be the best. Documenting hostility also helps management see patterns of employee behaviour not normally observed or brought up in annual performance reviews. Analysis of these patterns can also help management identify ways to target employee problems and come up with corresponding coaching or training programs to minimize them.


When things go out of hand, step in to mediate and calm things down. Confronting the hostile employee directly may feel awkward or perhaps cause more commotion at work, but it’s the quickest ways to solve the problem. It also shows other employees that you don’t tolerate inappropriate behaviour at work.


Don’t terminate hostile employees immediately after confrontation. Give them a chance to explain their behaviour. Offer them time off, or an audience to air their grievances. Anger management and anxiety management classes can also help.


If hostile or difficult employees do not change, even with the additional training sessions and mentoring, then perhaps it is time to discipline them. If disciplinary actions do not work, then issue warnings and memos to show that he is on his way to termination. Remember to keep records of all bad behaviour exhibited, so you’ll have something to back up you reason for giving a memo.

How do you handle problem and hostile employees in your office? Do you have a documented procedure for dealing with them or do you follow a case-to-case basis approach?

For more information on how coaching is proven to work for dealing with difficult employees download the free White Paper​

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Paul Bailey

Paul is a highly experienced Business Coach, Mentor and Personal Development Specialist. He works with people to enhance business and personal performance through a process of supported self-awareness and self- development. Paul is the Co-Author of the book 80 Tips.