Good advice for managing unwanted behavior at the workplace

Get practical methods that assist you in managing challenging situations in the workplace.
Caroline GottschalckMarketing Coordinator
Monday, June 10, 2024
Fam Manson, advisor at Simployer

Everyone may experience a rough day at work, but allowing personal issues to impact colleagues is not acceptable. Every leader is responsible for addressing unwanted behaviour and difficult situations that may arise in the workplace. Experience shows that unwanted behaviour can be addressed through dialogue, and terminations can be avoided with effective management.

But how should one approach be resolving the problem before it escalates?

Various types of unwanted behaviour

Fam Manson, an advisor at Simployer, deals with various workplace challenges daily and has observed how unwanted behaviour can take many forms.

"Unwanted behaviour can range from minor issues like arriving late, difficulties in collaboration, and lapses in routine to serious cases of bullying, harassment, disloyalty, insubordination, theft, and embezzlement. Unwanted behaviour can also occur when an employee fails to meet expectations, known as underperformance. It encompasses all scenarios where an employee's actions necessitate feedback indicating that something is undesirable and needs improvement."

Manson believes that a leader should be attentive and proactive in preventing unwanted behaviour.

"I am focused on everyday leadership as a crucial concept in preventive work. Everyday leadership and relational leadership involve being present, knowing one's employees, and responding promptly to any issues that arise. While employee development discussions are valuable tools, everyday leadership is about providing immediate feedback and responses. If you encounter a serious challenge, you do not wait for the employee review in six months, you address it right away," says Fam Manson.

Requires procedures and rules

She emphasizes that it is the company's responsibility to embed expected behaviour in procedures and rules.

"It is the management's responsibility to communicate expected behaviour to employees and to have procedures in place for addressing challenges that arise. It is also wise to highlight employee engagement and other positive aspects of the organisation. Good employee engagement involves addressing challenges and proposing solutions. Regardless, there should be solid procedures and guidelines as a foundation.

Even with proactive everyday leadership and preventive efforts, the situation may necessitate a stronger response.

"Even under effective leadership, you may find yourself in a situation where you need to have 'the difficult conversation.' These conversations may become necessary because the employee is creating challenges for themselves. Sometimes, it is due to personal struggles impacting their work performance. In other cases, the reason may be layoffs or restructuring. Regardless of the cause, handling such difficult conversations requires well-established procedures," she explains.

Provide clear feedback

Manson believes the key is making sure the person involved gets straightforward feedback, either written or spoken, that something is not working.

"It is not helpful to discuss challenges with fellow leaders or others. The individual concerned should receive clear feedback on what is undesirable, and that change is required. This can be done, for example, through a conversation and written feedback detailing the situation, what needs to change, and the potential consequences for the employee if it is not addressed."

After providing feedback, it is crucial for the manager to keep checking in with the person and hopefully see some improvement.

"I find it helpful to sit down and talk about the issue, making it clear we do not want it to escalate. It is about being proactive in everyday leadership and dealing with problems early on. It is important to make it clear that things need to change. If the behaviour persists, it suggests the person either does not get it or does not want to. Sometimes, it can take a while, and if things do not improve, it might lead to letting them go," explains Manson.

Must learn from difficult situations

She suggests that training leaders to handle difficult situations as part of their onboarding and ongoing development is a good preventive measure:

"Leaders need to be trained in dealing with tough situations, spotting signs, giving feedback constructively, knowing when to step in, and encouraging accountability. It is an important preventive step. Sometimes, a leader might mishandle a situation and wrongly blame the employee. Everyone should understand their role in such situations."

Manson is focused on learning from tough situations and reflecting on the experiences afterward:

"Depending on the case, it is good for the manager to collaborate with HR to review how things were handled, what led to the situation, and what lessons were learned. In successful cases, involving the person involved in the situation could also be beneficial. It is important to establish good follow-up routines with employees and provide adequate training for leaders."

"At the end of the day, it is about taking care of employees through thick and thin," Manson concludes.