As the CEO or leader of your organization, you have many responsibilities. One of the most important, and often most overlooked is the management of people and your teams. One toxic person in your setting can upset the entire equilibrium and efficiency of your team, and ultimately your business performance. It is vital to keep tabs on the dynamics within your ranks to keep your business healthy.

The top telltale signs of a ‘difficult  or ‘toxic person’ are:

  1. They are victims – always blaming others for what’s happening to them.
  2. It’s all about them – everything centers around what is important for them.
  3. Always strings attached – They’ll never do anything for you without expecting a return.
  4. They gossip, whine, blame –  and attack others and complain about everything.
  5. They are unaware – oblivious to relationship dynamics, communication, or anyone else’s perspective.
  6. They suffer from a personality disorder –  like narcissism and are unable to have healthy nurturing relationships.
  7. They are disrespectful and rude – They treat others badly. (learn the signs of disrespect)
  8. They are abusive – emotionally, spiritually, or physically ( learn the red flags of abuse)

How do leaders ‘Toss the Toxic’ and take care of their team when dealing with people like this? They activate some key actions and concepts to ground themselves and to remember that they cannot change the other person, but they do have the power to change themselves and how they react to the difficult person. In business, learning these boundaries and skills for communication are paramount to your health and well-being, as well as your ability to grow and expand. There is not one powerful CEO on the planet who allows toxic people to distract them from their goals and vision. Business growth is intimately tied to personal growth – you cannot separate the two.

If you find yourself neck-deep in the dark depths of negativity with a difficult person in either business or personal relationships, you’ll want to know how to get yourself out and away. It can be tough to extricate yourself, but if you do the work, take accountability for yourself and allow yourself self-care and nurturing you will find your way out. Follow these guidelines to release yourself from the prison and pain of the toxic and negative person(s) in your life.

When face to face with a toxic and difficult person, the wise leader will remember:


It’s a natural reaction, but a wise leader understands that those feelings are their own responsibility. It is never OK to be cruel, at any time, no matter how difficult or distressing that person you’re dealing with is. Rage, resentment, jealousy, competition, and aggressiveness do not change the hearts of others, those negative emotions only change yours – so manage them in a healthy way.


Not because they deserve forgiveness, or you condone their actions, forgive to let yourself off the hook. You deserve peace and to not live life as a constant victim. Free yourself from the shackles of resentments and bad thoughts toward another.


You may feel that the words that were spoken to you are what made you FEEL the way you do. However, this is not true. It is your reaction to those words that decide how you feel. Utilize the power you have to decide and choose how you will react.


Resist the temptation to judge and gossip. Be the wise one and aim to understand before you condemn. Use your personal judgment as a tool to better yourself and make positive choices rather than as a weapon to beat others down.


When negativity surrounds you like a black cloud, pull out your umbrella and keep ‘singing in the rain’ – Smile even when the world around you is frowning. You can make an incredible difference in the world if you aim to be the sunshine rather than the stormy weather. This doesn’t mean deny sad or negative feelings you may have, feel them and then let them go. This is more about not letting yourself get pulled into someone else’s negativity and drama. This is especially important when you are a leader.


Be the one who sets an example for how we should all be treating each other. Even the rude and obnoxious people, treat them well. Not because they deserve it, but because you are genuine and kind and YOU treat people well. Wise people are always thankful for difficult people because they can teach us many things, even if it just reflects what NOT to be in the world.


It doesn’t matter how hard you work at changing your life and making positive steps towards more wisdom if you are constantly hanging out with negative people. The great danger of being around toxic and negative people is that you will become more like them without even being aware of it. Have firm boundaries and keep your distance from toxic individuals, even if, especially if these are family members. You can love at a distance and being kind and respectful does not mean you have to spend all of your time with someone. Take care of yourself first. The key to success in business is to associate and work with genuine and authentic people so that you can grow and expand in a nurturing environment and learn to be an effective and positive communicator yourself.


Disagreements happen, and the way you treat others when they disagree with you is an indicator of your level of compassion, understanding, respect, and kindness. The wise person knows that life is too precious to spend it arguing – let it go and let it be. Value those who value you back and focus on those who nurture you. Hold your head high and walk away from situations that can never have a ‘winner’.


If you’ve suffered any form of abuse, or been involved in dysfunctional family dynamics, this can be a difficult one. But, this is one of the most important steps a wise leader makes. Stop worrying about what other people think and stop being afraid of who you really are. Release the shame and guilt.  Happiness is a byproduct of true self-acceptance and self-love. Self-care is never selfish. When your tanks are full and you are nurtured you are more capable of giving out to those you love. This is especially important in business – if a client is toxic and unhealthy, it is ok to make the choice to discontinue working with them if you feel it is affecting your wellness and peace of mind. Take care of yourself first, and if that means you need to ‘Toss the Toxic’ client, then do so with respect and clarity and move on.


When difficult people trigger us it is because we still haven’t come to terms with our own shadow side and things that we judge about ourselves. Be honest with yourself and let yourself feel the things that you need to feel. What you feel isn’t who you are, your actions make you who you are. Feeling your truth is critical to trusting yourself and providing important self-care. Feel the anger, frustration, hurt, abandonment, and allow it to release and transform. It’s only when we act on those feelings without releasing them that we become toxic. How you feel is always valid, allow yourself that support and nurturing and ensure you find your true family – the people in your circle who will validate your feelings and encourage you to feel, release, let go and move on.

May you empower yourself to walk away, stay strong and give yourself the critical self-care that you need. Set strong boundaries  where needed to protect yourself. There is nothing selfish about doing what you need to do to be at peace.


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Kaare Long
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