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How to Manage Difficult Behavior at Work

Let’s face it. No matter what we all would like to believe about the place we work, there is bound to be conflict in the office. It might be clashing of strong personalities with starkly different viewpoints on how things should be done or (unfortunately) the occasional worker who is consistently at odds with others. When these types of issues rise up among staff, it’s up to you to redirect them to a more amicable path.

We’ve discussed how to approach conflict in the past from a management perspective, but what happens when the issue at hand lies with steadily difficult behavior, rather than one-off instances that can be resolved and moved on from? What do you do when faced with a team member who repeatedly presents off-putting behavior that negatively impacts others?

Now, your inclination may be to resort to swiftly eliminating the problem. While termination can certainly be one solution, it shouldn’t necessarily be the go-to method. For starters, the so-called difficult person may otherwise be a tremendous asset to your company. Additionally, they may not even realize that their behavior is creating discord.

At the same time, it’s still important to be on top of this type of conflict, particularly when it’s consistent, because dissonance among your staff not only produces unpleasant working conditions (even for those not directly involved), but it also is a catalyst for sub-par performance, which affects your bottom line.

Since we’re all about helping you maximize your workforce’s potential in order to make your business as smooth-running and profitable as possible, we thought we’d pass along some advice for how best to approach these types of sensitive situations.

Listen to them.
Let’s say someone is consistently negative; it can put a real damper on the mood. Though we all may want to focus on the positive, it’s important to hear this person out. They could very well have a legitimate complaint and feel that nobody has listened to them. And so, it festers. Listen to them. Ask them questions. Determine if their negativity stems from a work-related issue that you may not have known about, but that needs to be addressed. If not, let them know how their negative attitude is adversely affecting the team and put them on a path toward more positive behavior.

Approach respectfully, not confrontationally.
There are certain behaviors that can truly be disruptive to the workplace. It may be something as simple as listening to music too loud, or it might be a more sensitive subject, like hygiene issues. Or maybe they’re dressing in a way you feel doesn’t best represent the company, though it may technically fall within the dress code. Whatever the issue may be, it’s best to address the person directly, though respectfully, and make sure there’s a clear understanding of adjustments that need to be made.

Put people on a path to success.
Difficult behavior can abruptly end a person’s career path within a certain business. Make sure the employee knows they have the opportunity to get back on track and truly pave a road to future success with the company … if they can successfully modify their day-to-day conduct. Ultimately, most people want to be successful and, more often than not, if they know they’re jeopardizing that, they’ll adjust to accommodate.

Don’t add fuel to the fire.
We know, sometimes it’s easier (and more fun) to be the type of boss that is super chummy with all your staff. While it’s great to have that type of rapport, there needs to be a line of separation at some point. If certain members of your team take to ragging on others for, say, the aforementioned disruptive behavior — particularly if they’re taking things too far — don’t join them. Your job isn’t to be an antagonist. Instead, nip that behavior in the bud before it gets out of hand, and then address the disruption.

At the end of the day, we all want the workplace — whether you’re in an office, constantly offsite, or a combination of the two — to be an enjoyable place to be. After all, it is where you spend a large chunk of your waking hours. We hope this can help.

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By |2019-03-15T16:46:30+00:00March 15th, 2019|Blog, Office Life, Tips|