Disruptive behaviour at work comes in many forms – a negative attitude, aggression, being poorly organised, and not being a team-player are just some examples. If left unchecked, this bad behaviour in the workplace can be infectious and end up damaging business morale and productivity. Bad behaviour isn’t necessarily down to someone being a bad employee, but more often than not, it points to underlying issues that need urgent attention. If you’re facing problems with some of your employees, this guidance will help you tackle it in a professional way.
When an employee’s behaviour is driving you crazy, it’s hard to keep your cool and not think badly about them. But if you’ve already labelled them as ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’, or ‘incompetent’ in your head, then you’re failing them – seek to understand what’s behind their negative behaviour before drawing your own conclusions based on personal feelings and your frustrations. Acting negatively towards an employee who’s behaving badly will only get their back up and make them even less cooperative; show them respect and act in a professional manner, even if they aren’t doing the same.
In cases where you suspect serious misconduct which is deserving of disciplinary action, follow the correct company procedures at all times to stay legal and protect yourself from claims of harassment or discrimination.
To back up your claims, you need to document instances of the bad behaviour as evidence. Keep a log, noting what happened, the time and date, who was involved, and whether you said anything to the employee about it. That way, if the problem does continue and you have to get HR and other managers involved, you’ll have a stronger case should it come to having to let the employee go.
Instead of focusing on punishing bad behaviour, you need to understand what’s causing it. If an employee is constantly negative and shows little enthusiasm for their work, is it because they’re not being supported or managed in the right way? Or perhaps they have something going on in their personal lives that’s impacting their performance at work? Until you fully understand why an employee is acting inappropriately, you’ll be fumbling in the dark trying to find a way to overcome it.
To get to the bottom of it, start off by inviting the employee to speak to you privately. In the first instance, confront them with the facts of their behaviour without being aggressive and accusatory – show them that you’re on their side and only wanting to support them. Hear them out and give them the opportunity to explain the issues from their perspective. For example, if an employee’s performance has been slipping and they’re unusually withdrawn, you could say something like:
“I’ve noticed recently that you haven’t been performing to your usual standard, and don’t seem to be getting involved when it comes to group project work. Is there anything going on that I should be aware of?”
By asking a badly behaved employee to explain why they’re acting in such a way, you have to face up to the fact that the problem may be rather close for comfort – without realising it, you may have contributed to the problem, or it may be a complaint about your colleagues or the company as a whole which needs addressing. You have to be thick-skinned and not take things personally; the purpose of gaining their feedback is so that you can help the employee work better, which benefits the whole team and the business.
When you speak to the employee about their behaviour, take it as an opportunity to give constructive feedback. Rather than taking the opportunity to chastise them, make it clear why their behaviour is unacceptable and is having a negative impact on other people, then offer practical ways to resolve the issues so that they have a clear route to improve their performance. This will show that you’re on their side, being supportive of them, and invested in their success.
Some issues will arise that are simply too complex for you to handle yourself, or that you don’t have the resources or authority to deal with. If you feel that this is the case, or the problem is company-wide, escalate it to your upline manager and HR department, providing them with as much detail as possible about the employee’s behaviour, the context, and what factors might be contributing to it.
When employees’ behaviour isn’t meeting a good enough standard for the business, it impacts everyone around them and the overall success of the company. Nip it in the bud early on by following this guidance, and you’ll be able to create a more positive working environment for everyone.