Bad Behavior at Work
Prevent bad behavior from escalating using these simple steps.
Bad behavior in the workplace can have a devastating effect on people and productivity.
But how do you identify bad behavior and differentiate it from the merely quirky? If we're not sure, we might gloss over or rationalize bad behavior to avoid confrontation.
Behavior such as discrimination is obviously never acceptable and is often illegal.
Some behavior, however, isn't so clear cut. For instance, using earbuds to listen to music while you're working seems innocuous. It's helping you to concentrate – but it's also isolating you from the team. So, is it good or bad?
This is where you need some simple, clear criteria to help you to determine what's OK.
Our definition of "bad behavior" isn't so much about what specific things a person does or doesn't do, but the effects of that behavior on his or her team.
In his book, "Leading Teams," J Richard Hackman observed that an effective team:
a. Delivers something that's acceptable to the client.
b. Remains a cohesive group in the long term.
And c. Is made of individuals who benefit from being part of it.
So, behavior is bad if it harms the team's ability to deliver effectively; damages the team's cohesion; or has an adverse impact on team members.
Remember, perceptions of what constitutes good and bad behavior depend on context and may change over time.
So, if meetings have always been a "rubber-stamping exercise" and a new person joins the team who voices dissenting opinions, this isn't necessarily "bad."
In fact, a colleague who challenges "groupthink" is benefiting the team by stimulating its creativity and rigor.
Once you're sure that a behavior needs to be tackled, find a private space to talk to the person involved.
Start your conversation by making a brief, factual summary of what has happened.
Next, explain the negative impact of the behavior and describe the feelings of the people affected.
And, finally, state clearly how you would like the behavior modified and agree some targets.
Be ready to listen to your team member's response. It could be that underlying problems surface once you start a conversation.
Our three criteria make a useful tool for managers to determine whether behavior is bad or simply different. You can then tackle bad behavior quickly and confidently, so that it doesn't escalate.
For more information about Bad Behavior at Work, see the article that accompanies this video.