Seven Steps to Ending Disruptive Behavior in the Workplace

27 09 2011

Can a productive employee actually cost you business?  I am reminded of words that were shared with me some time ago; “People are hired for their technical expertise and fired for their behavior.”  That is just as true today.  I have noticed a trend on this subject recently.

After a morning meeting with a client, we discovered that a productive employee has cost her business around $370,000 dollars in lost revenue.  Yes, that is correct.  This lost revenue is because the employee in question has driven away even higher producing members of her sales team.  These people have gone to work for the competitor and have taken business with them.  The difference in the disruptive employee’s production vs. the people who have left works out to be $370,000 in gross dollars.  That is pretty significant.  And often these costs are hidden because we often don’t measure the impact of one person’s productivity against a group.

Business leaders need to protect themselves against what I call disruptive behavior which is when an individual, or group, negatively impact the productivity of the rest of the workforce.  Steps to correct behavior may be taken too late or dealt with incorrectly.  In a few cases, the negative behavior is ignored which creates critical problems that are difficult to correct.

If you are experiencing disruptive behavior, you should take the following actions:

  1. Address the problem immediately – Take action now instead of waiting to see if the problem will correct itself.  When issues aren’t dealt with right away, they send messages to your good employees that you don’t care.  This can lead to frustration, anger, lost productivity, poor service, and poor quality.
  2. Keep emotion out of the discussion – Taking corrective action when you are angry or upset will only lead to an argument.  Handle the situation rationally and stay focused on the facts.  Address examples of the behaviors observed  and focus on the desired behaviors.
  3. Act as a coach, not a disciplinarian – Sometimes we may come across like the scolding parent.  If you know how well your kids listen when you act like that, imagine how an adult will be.  Open a dialog, ask questions, enroll the individual in how they can be part of the solution.
  4. Get both sides – Find out what is going on with the employee that might be leading to their disruptive behavior.  Are their actions caused by their own frustrations?  Is there something personal going on that is reflecting in their work habits?  Understand their side of the problem and help them come up with their solution.
  5. Keep it positive and keep it real – Maintain your focus on desired outcomes.  Keep the conversation as positive as possible yet don’t let people off the hook or make excuses for bad behavior.  The moment you make the poor performance acceptable, you can expect to see more of it.
  6. Establish follow up and accountability – Often bad behavior continues because no action is taken past the discussion.  When dealing with behavioral issues, it is not possible to make immediate corrections to someone’s attitude.  Continued follow up is needed.  Check in with the person.  Make sure they are continually working towards change and they know you are there to support them.  Reinforce desired behaviors over only recognizing poor ones.  Catch them doing good things because most people only hear when they screw up.  Whatever you place your focus on will grow.
  7. Encourage open dialog between staff members – Though this takes time, building trust and open communication between team members is an effective way to prevent performance issues.  Consistent leadership and positive behavior on your part will reinforce the culture and the group will start self-policing their own actions.  Trust people will do the right things and in most cases they will.  Just don’t forget to follow up and verify the right actions are happening.

Taking these steps can increase the performance of your workforce and reduce the time you spend dealing with disruptive issues.  Make sure you do your part as a leader to not only make this the best customer environment, but also the best work environment.


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