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Problems With Toxic Employees Stem From Emotional Intelligence

John Kiesel April influencer
May 19, 2022 at 8:00 a.m.

RCS Influencer John Kiesel says allowing employees to speak openly about their problems can help them if they are being toxic. 

Editor’s note: The following consists of a conversation between RCS Multi-media Manager Megan Ellsworth, and Division 7 Roofing’s President John Keisel. You can listen to the podcast or read the transcript below. 

Megan Ellsworth: Hello everyone. My name is Megan Ellsworth here at RoofersCoffeeShop.com. Today, I am talking with John Kiesel from Division 7 Roofing, and we're going to be talking about toxic employees. This is the April Influencer Response and this month's topic is how do you deal with toxic employees? Hi John. 

John Kiesel: Hi, Megan. How are you? Hello everyone. 

Megan Ellsworth: Good. I'm excited to hear what you have to say, so how do you deal with toxic employees? 

John Kiesel: Well, the first reaction I have is we fire them. Then, that caused me to... Actually this topic actually caused me to think little bit more closely about it, because there's more to the story than, oh, we just terminate toxic employees. We all know what toxic employees do to an organization, but it's definitely a much deeper dive when you think about the concept of what a toxic employee actually is and what is a toxic employee and why have they become toxic and what are the key indicators that somebody's becoming a toxic employee or is full blown toxic? 

There's all these different levels when you start to break it down. After 20 plus years and being involved with the management of all kinds of different people, there's a lot of different factors that I would describe somebody as being toxic because of. What I realized was it's really an emotional intelligence type of issue. Once you kind of identify the reasons why somebody's toxic, then you can start looking at how to fix the problem and just not go into a termination resolution and try to salvage a relationship and what people have to offer to the organization. 

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely. Do you have any advice for a contractor out there that maybe doesn't even realize that an employee is causing problems or maybe is toxic, and also what would you identify as a toxic employee? 

John Kiesel: You have people that strongly lack emotional intelligence and really in our industry, there's not a lot of people that are educated in the concept unfortunately. For myself, I can honestly say many years ago I would consider myself a previous toxic employee because I just had never been... My horizons were never broadened into how people perceive what you're saying and how to channel your emotions and how to describe your thoughts in a strategic manner versus just saying what you're thinking. 

There's plenty of resources out there to broaden people's horizons on the concept of restraint and timing and all these different things that are very critical to getting the result you want without just being boisterous and negative about whatever it is that's bothering you. That's one suggestion, I would say. 

There's plenty of resources to try to figure out how you can help someone versus just labeling them as toxic and they just need to go. What I would think when I think about toxic employees, so you have people that just outwardly just say negativity to anyone and everyone, and they don't care who hears it. Those people I've cut off at the pass and politely explain to them, "I'll continue to pay you to work here, but I'm not going to pay you to work and complain about working here. That's not the relationship we have. I'm not going to pay you to complain about working here. That's not part of your job description." 

It kind of takes them off guard. They step back and I think they modify their behavior and over time they get back to their true roots and start becoming negative again. Then, you end up having to terminate people after you bring it to their attention and communicate. Then, you have other folks that just run around kind of undermining the company in the cliques, the different people that they can find that are like minded and think like they do and the reception from the other person is what they want to hear. 

They continue to go back to these types of people and start to build a negative rift in the organization. It starts to elevate it until you figure out where this is stemming from. What are the reasons why they're unhappy or what are the reasons? Maybe some of them are valid. They just have never even talked to you about how we can correct these things. They just run around and complain about it. 

Bringing them in and having a conversation, what is it that's troubling you to the point where you want to go around and talk about an issue that you never brought up to me that I would've been willing to consider, so just giving people channels to work through what's bothering them that they just have never experienced in their personal lives mainly. 

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely, well said on that. I think you're totally right. Giving the space to people that need it to talk honestly and openly can definitely help that situation. 

John Kiesel: Yeah. Yeah. It's a beautiful thing. We're about relationships at Division 7. We're a great culture and that's really the... You talk about toxic people, the culture of the company where we are today, we really have a strong repellent to those people and everybody here doesn't want to deal with negativity. If within the first two weeks people start having the perception that this person's negative, this person's going to be toxic to our culture, it's almost like a group eviction. 

It's almost like a democracy, you're voted off the island. When the tribe speaks, that's when we start taking action and that's really when you have a successful culture. You don't have to be the one that points out that there's a toxic person. Your whole entire company recognizes it and deals with it. 

Megan Ellsworth: Absolutely. 

John Kiesel: That's really the goal. We finally got there over plenty of years of having semi-toxic type people or people that aren't 100% on board with what we're doing and initiatives and believing in the management vision. They've left and the company's got stronger for it. 

Megan Ellsworth: That's incredible. I'm glad to hear that. I think that's really inspirational for any contractors out there trying to get to that level. I'm sure they're happy to hear that you've moved past and you're so right, company culture really is that repellent to those potentially toxic employees. Good point. 

John Kiesel: Yeah. They feel right at home when everybody's grumpy, they just get right into complaining. That's probably a lot easier to their wiring to fit into versus like, "I'm going to come in here to a happy place. I just can't be miserable here. I don't like that." You know? That's the thing I suggest to contractors out there is really trying to build that strong team effort and people that embrace the culture because they are part of it. 

They should like their experience every day versus dealing with negativity. Nobody wants to have that transfer negative energy onto them to where once they go home, they turn off the computer and they're going to take that negativity home. Next thing you know, it leads to negativity when dealing with your spouses and children and different things, maybe even a dog, who knows, but that's my spiel about toxic employees. 

Megan Ellsworth: I love it. Well, thank you so much for your time today, and we'll be chatting with you next month. Thanks so much, John. 

John Kiesel: Thank you, Megan. Bye. 

Megan Ellsworth: Bye. 

John Kiesel is the president of Division 7 Roofing and Imagine Technologies Group. See his full bio here. 

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