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Solutions to Managing Negative Workplace Behaviors

Managing employees is no easy task. Individuals' personalities clash, conflicts arise, and differences of opinions can all get in the way of productivity. It is up to the company to keep its work environment pleasant and its operations running smoothly. It is beneficial to have established protocols in place to deal with the challenges of managing your workforce.

The most common negative behaviors that can create an unpleasant work atmosphere include gossiping, insolence, bullying, and insubordination. Knowing when workplace gossip crosses the line into being potentially harmful is key: it can become a liability when it becomes an issue of safety, health, or harassment.

The impact of these negative behaviors are widespread: often, even if only one employee is targeted, the company’s entire culture is disrupted.

Engaging in rude or disrespectful speech or behavior, including physical intimidation, insulting statements, hostile tones, berating coworkers (in front of others or alone), and slamming doors is considered insolence and should not be tolerated. Bullying can include insolence, but it can also be subtler behaviors such as social isolation, manipulation, and condescension. Workplace incivility has an impact on all employees, which can be seen by decreases in productivity, performance, and employee commitment.

An intentional refusal of an employer's lawful and reasonable request to undermine the company or a supervisor should result in discipline and/or termination, depending on the severity of the insubordination.

When these behaviors become obvious or are reported, human resources should become involved.

Managing challenging employees and behaviors requires immediate action to mitigate negative experiences for coworkers. Corrective steps should be taken to reduce an organization’s exposure and liability.

Employees who are consistently difficult cast a negative effect on the company, and the damage can be extensive. Difficult employees, who are not managed properly, can increase employee turnover and use of sick leave and cause legal expenses, all actions that have a negative affect the bottom line. What’s more, toxic behaviors that are not addressed can spread through the workplace and may give employees the impression that the company has a high tolerance for misbehavior.

The first step in discouraging disruptive behavior is to prevent it. Ongoing preventive employee training sets the expectations for employee behavior.

It makes the statement that misbehavior will not be permitted. Human resources, managers, and team leaders can facilitate meaningful teamwork exercises regularly to foster a happy and friendly company culture. This works to build positive working relationships between employees. The Department of Labor offers two prevention programs: “Respect in the Workplace,” and “Leading for Respect.”

Ongoing communication is crucial in managing difficult employees. Take notice of disruptive behaviors, and listen to the employee’s perspective. Sometimes factors, such as stress from workload can play a role in their misaligned and unwanted behavior. Provide honest and non-judgmental feedback. Give specific examples of unacceptable behaviors and discuss what is expected in the future. Follow up frequently.

Documentation is key in these circumstances. Creating a written plan of action and following through with misguided employees every time is a recommended best practice. This allows for proper coaching, mentoring and discipline to take place. Don’t let poor habits and unacceptable behavior fall through the cracks. Ensure your organization follows its disciplinary policies by documenting each discussion with an offending employee. Creating this ‘paper trail’ shows that proper company protocol was followed in the event further action, such as probation or termination is necessary.

Tracking of employee behavior, coaching conversations, and disciplinary actions can be done through an employee management solution such as LightWork® Performance Management. A performance management solution like LightWork Software is a great tool to ensure corporate goals and employee objectives are established, tracked, and achieved. For more information about LightWork Performance Management visit

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