How to Handle Less Than Ideal Employee Behavior

How to Handle Less Than Ideal Employee Behavior

While, in hiring your team, ideally you selected people who fit well within your company culture, who had the skills and qualifications to do the job at hand and who was attentive when it came to direction and feedback, on occasion, it does happen that somewhere an employee goes a bit astray. They begin exhibiting behaviors that are disruptive and subsequently prevent others from doing their jobs well. Below is some advice regarding what to do should you need to address employee behavior that just isn't cutting it.

Accept or correct?

When trying to deal with a difficult employee, this can be an incredibly challenging situation. Unlike performance issues or defects in terms of quality, behavior issues could appear independent of how they do their job. It is not uncommon to find those employees who do show negative behavior patterns to be productive in a work-related capacity. If this is the case, some supervisors are apt to overlook the infringing behavior—as the person is doing the job relatively well. That said, what needs to be considered is how this behavior impacts their co-workers and potentially hinders their productivity.

Think also about the fact that in simply putting up with negative behavior patterns the following consequences can arise:

  • A decline in attitude from other employees
  • Loss of respect from management
  • Increased frustration on the supervisor's part

What about the role of HR in this, many are inclined to ask. Numerous supervisors expect that HR will step in and do their part as far as correcting and/or addressing undesired behavior. What recent studies have shown however is that HR is too often of the same mindset; that is to say, if the employee is getting their job done, and if the behavior isn't outwardly hurting anyone, they overlook it. Especially if that employee is particularly productive. In terms of HR, they are more apt to point to the supervisor in such a case, according to many polls. In other words, the supervisor isn't handling the situation as they need to, or they are not documenting the behavior correctly so that it can be addressed in a broader capacity. If the supervisor has been allowing this behavior for some time before bringing it to someone else's attention, then again, more often than not, the supervisor is deemed the one at fault.

Time for Some Changes

Another way in which an employee's bad behavior is frequently addressed is by using a group approach. That is to say, managers, rather than single out that particular employee will bring a larger group in for training and e-learning activities. This can easily backfire. The employees who aren't exhibiting such behavior are resentful for having been brought in, and the one for whom the training is intended usually thinks it is meant to target another. The behavior thus sadly continues.

The first thing that needs to be done to handle the situation, is to start documenting everything…and we mean everything. Every manager should be keeping a notebook or observation journal to this end. And not just to make notes regarding situations/events that do occur, but also to jot down relevant suggestions, questions, anything that might help to dissect this behavior and help rectify it. This way too, at the end of the day the supervisor isn't merely coming back to that employee with a list of complaints but also constructive observations as well.

What about the question of inter-office informants? Meaning, as the supervisor cannot be everyplace at once, often helpful co-workers will reveal details of something untoward that may have happened. Should a manager act on said information? Unfortunately, there is no clear cut answer here. It depends upon the specifics of the problem at hand. Something more serious such as theft or harassment of course requires action regardless of who the informant happens to be. As not taking any action in light of what is found out could lead to bigger issues for the supervisor as well. Smaller infractions though such as coming back late from a break or talking too much when they should otherwise be working, these a supervisor will probably want to observe directly before bringing anything up to the targeted employee.

Another important thing to keep in mind is consistency. Some supervisors tend to be more regimented than others—the more cohesive and uniform as far as approaches to dealing with employees, the better.

A Few Tips for Dealing with Bad Behavior

  1. Make expectations clear. Be proactive as far as outlining the kind of behavior and performance you expect from all employees daily. And be sure to consequently enforce these expectations, otherwise, staff may not take them seriously.
  2. Again, document everything. The better notes you keep, the less confusion and back and forth there will be if an issue does need to be addressed.
  3. Speak up. Many employee issues can be dealt with relatively easily before them escalating. If a supervisor does notice something's awry, they need to speak up, comment, ask questions.
  4. Consult HR in advance. It is better to give HR a heads up versus trying to get them on your side after an incident has occurred. If the employee is an ongoing problem, be sure to make them aware of this, and additionally, you might ask them for support in how to handle an issue.
  5. Be sure to follow-up. Don't just overlook the problem hoping it'll go away. Especially if things start to escalate, you may need to take it higher. The formal discipline of some form may be involved.

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