Dealing with bad behaviour at work


By: Des Squire

When I talk to managers about work problems and bad behaviour it is surprising how few can actually define what it is they are referring to. What do we mean by bad behaviour, what exactly are workplace problems?

Consider the following;

Brian, has been with your company for some time and has over the years proved to be committed, dedicated to his career and exceptionally knowledgeable. He works conscientiously and puts in extra hours without having to be asked to work overtime.

His workmates are easy going, not phased by time constraints and take things in their stride - but they get the job done.

Brian is short tempered, abrasive and has very poor people skills. He often rubs his colleagues up the wrong way. The members of Brian?s department have become used to his behaviour and his quick temper and tend to ignore him. One or two however have complained that his behaviour is upsetting them and impacting on their performance. Brian has become a little bit of a problem child!

How do you deal with Brian?

What are you basing your decision on?

You see the issue of behaviour is not so easy to define because so much depends on the situation itself. We cannot just decide that all behaviour we do not like or for that matter behaviour others do not like as being bad behaviour. There has to be some reliable way of deciding whether a particular behaviour is acceptable or not. Usually this decision will be made based on the company specific code of conduct. The code of conduct should ideally define what is seen to be acceptable behaviour and what is defined as unacceptable behaviour.

Unacceptable behaviour should to my way of thinking relate to the impact the behaviour has on the company, department or other individuals within the company or department.

Behaviour, whether good or bad, will have a positive or negative effect on the performance of the team as a whole. Behaviour will have an impact on effectiveness of the team and ultimately on the profitability of the company as a whole. So, good behaviour should contribute to success and profitability while bad behaviour will normally have an overall negative effect and will diminish effectiveness and profitability.

On this basis we can then say that Brian?s behaviour is bad because it is having a negative effect on team morale and potentially on the overall effectiveness of the team and the company profitability.

This then appears to be a fairly clear-cut example and makes arriving at a decision related to action fairly easy.

What about the employee who spends time chatting to her or his friend on "facebook' or other social networks? What about the employee who dresses in an unacceptable manner? What about the employee who continually swears or tells smutty jokes and so on. These are issues that impact on you as the manager or supervisor but might not have an impact on team members as a whole.

Bad behaviour will and does in fact have an impact on the morale of a team and on individual employees whether they complain about it or not. Because of this managers and supervisors cannot ignore it and cannot deny it exists.

At a personal level a manager or supervisor can choose to ignore bad behaviour but at a corporate level bad behaviour can never be overlooked. Bad behaviour has a negative impact on overall morale, profitability and may even impact on sick leave and staff turnover.

Many managers and supervisors will try to rationalise and justify bad behaviour. In many instances bad behaviour is condoned and put up with in the hope it will ultimately go away. This is very dangerous and is in fact putting a message out that the behaviour is in fact acceptable - it is ok.

Your company code of conduct should clearly define what is termed good and bad behaviour - what is acceptable and unacceptable. As a supervisor or manager you have to make a decision as to how best to deal with the situation. You are however obligated to deal with it - to take some appropriate action.

Bad behaviour can never be seen to be career enhancing so can never be condoned. This is particularly true in relation to the behaviour of the manager, supervisor or leader. Managers and leaders must take a stance against bad behaviour.

In summary

It is important then that employees recognise what constitutes bad behaviour.
If it is left alone bad behaviour will have a negative impact on morale, individuals and overall profitability
Make use of the company code of conduct and enforce it rigidly
Deal with bad behaviour effectively, privately and swiftly

Leaders, managers and supervisors must lead by example

Remember that bad behaviour in the workplace is based on what has been outlined in a company code of conduct and has nothing to do with others behaving differently to how you personally might behave.