Managing Your Terrorists! Dealing with Poor Behaviour in the Workplace

Who’s bad…?

Engaging in appropriate challenging conversations remains difficult and dangerous territory for many managers. Too often our concerns about the bad behaviour of certain staff members, particularly those who are good at their job or have specific expertise, go unaddressed. As managers we strive to be quick to praise and promote positive results and outputs but we’re not always as keen to challenge negative behaviours and poor attitude. We want the results and sometimes make allowances for people because they get us those results….

Human nature…

But what is the potential cost of putting up with bad behaviour to the culture and engagement of the wider workforce? It is often the lowest common denominators who seem to spread their influence the furthest. There seems to be a certain truth in the adage that “misery loves company” and negativity can spread insidiously if not nipped in the bud. Even those who hold themselves to the highest standards can sometimes feel disengaged when they see people working under similar conditions - yet getting away with behaving in a negative or disruptive way.

You are not alone…

A few years ago I came across a four box skills and values grid (I have no idea who to credit this to, so let me know and I’ll update the blog). It resonated with me at the time and made me realise that I wasn’t alone in focussing on results sometimes at the cost of attitude. I have used it often ever since, I’m not sure how closely it relates to the original but here is what I sketch out for clients’ now…

They don’t care about us….

What I took from this is that it is relatively straightforward to know what to do with most of our top performers, we invest in them, continue training and development and strive to keep them engaged, motivated and evolving. With our worker bees, we also offer training and development to encourage growth or alternatively we settle them into a role they enjoy at a level they are happy with and support them with long-term security. Our bad hires, those who don’t perform and can’t be bothered, they are easy; performance-manage them out of the business! It’s the terrorists who often get the free pass and what we need to realise is that “they do not care about us or our company” or they would behave better. Their influence is negative and, unless we can shut them in a sealed box, we are generally better off without them. If you think someone has skills that are not replaceable then you need to look seriously at your attraction, retention and development strategies. It’s time for your terrorists to shape up or ship out!

Beat it…

Once you are freed from the mental chains that have prevented you from challenging your terrorists it’s time for a serious and challenging conversation. When you see or hear reports of bad behaviour or negative attitude it is time to beat it! The terrorists must be held accountable for behaving in a way that reflects the vision and values of the organisation. They should be measured and rated on values, engagement and conduct and, unless they mend their ways, it’s time to say goodbye.

Make it a better place…

When employees across an organisation understand that staff are held accountable not just for their outputs, but for the attitude, behaviours and values they display in achieving those results, the chances for a healthier and happier workplace are greatly improved. Cultural values, engagement and a positive, enthusiastic workplace don’t come easy. As managers we are not just responsible for accentuating the positive….we must also hold ourselves accountable for eliminating the negative, let’s not mess with Mr In-between!

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