There are several behaviours that can occur in the workplace that should not be tolerated.
The truth is, when these behaviours manifest in the workplace, they are counter productive to performance. They impact morale and engagement. Low morale and poor engagement result in low productivity. But more than that, the behaviours are illegal in many countries.
Bullying is one behaviour that should not be accepted. Unfortunately bullying is still misunderstood by some and condoned as a “toughening” measure by others. And, surprisingly, the incidence of bullying is reasonably high. In my work, I come across several clients per year who are experiencing counter productive and intimidating behaviour from one or more employees in their workforce. Sadly, not all of them realise the damage that bullies can cause.
What can be done about bullying?
It should be dealt with immediately. You have a couple of options. It depends whether the behaviour is at the lower end of the scale, or the higher end. Talking about the ends of the scale is not to minimise the seriousness of the behaviour, rather to indicate a degree and an approach to handling that situation.
At the lower end of the scale are behaviours like finger pointing, voices raised in anger and personal attacks. This is bullying. It might include victimisation, such as withholding of critical information from a person, failure to deliver messages or mail and subtle white-anting.
It should not be confused with passionate discussions. Passion is great. Anger is not. Enthusiasm builds productivity. Anger is destructive. Discussions involving anger and verbal attacks are quite different. While this behaviour once was tolerated in organisations, it is no longer appropriate in the workplace.
It should be dealt with immediately, and the best way to do so is through your performance management system. Arrange a performance discussion as soon as possible after the incident. In the discussion, describe the behaviour and the impact of the behaviour. Be clear that the behaviour is not tolerated in your organisation. Describe alternative options or behaviours that would have been appropriate.
The discussion is likely to be two-way as you discuss and explore the issue together. A range of different solutions should be discussed. To close the discussion, set the person one or more goals around self awareness and behaviour control. Then follow up on the goal 1 month or 3 months later, which ever is appropriate.
Violence or Sustained Anti Social Behaviour
Behaviour at the other end of the scale includes violence toward others, threats of violence, raised fists, personal abuse, destroying or throwing furniture or equipment. Yes, it does happen! It can also include sustained anger and other behaviours as described in the previous section, strong victimisation, harassment and stalking within the workplace (and/or beyond).
If you allow such bullying behaviour in the workplace it sends a strong message to your staff that such behaviour is Ok. Incidents are likely to increase. I have spoken to employees who remember “an incident” that happened four years ago like it was yesterday. It leaves a long and lasting impression within the organisation and often beyond the organisation. People do talk about such “events”. The reputation of your organisation is at stake.
In most cases, immediate action is required. It may be necessary to involve the authorities – doing so without hesitation will reassure your staff that you will provide a safe workplace.
You know, this level of incident rarely occurs in isolation. Most often there is a history of actions in the employee’s history that has probably escalated over time, and this is ignored or unsuccessfully dealt with. Act quickly and decisively now. Send a clear message to your organisation.
When consulted about such cases, I will sit with the client and explore that history and the impact of the actions. We will discuss all alternatives, This can include support for the individual e.g. a termination package with six months of counselling support prepaid. We will also explore other options such as extended stress leave, work/ job/ career assessment profiling, and so forth. But we will not sweep the issue under the carpet or try to get rid of it by shifting people around the organisation without proper thought and advice.
Review and Learn
One of the other actions that I will take with the client is to review, learn and act. We tease out whether the organisation itself needs to change to prevent further incidents. We ask, how much was the organisation to blame for the behaviour? Does the Executive Team model the values of the organisation? What work stresses are people under? Do the processes and system match the performance expectations? Are staff sufficiently supported?
We can help
If you need help in managing any aspect of performance, please call. Do you need help with holding difficult performance discussions? Would you like your organisation reviewed for pressure spots? Do you have an excellent and state-of-the-art Performance Management system that is aligned with your strategic processes? Can we profile your staff for you? We are only too happy to talk. We often travel across S.E. Asia, India, Europe and the US, and can discuss your needs, wherever you are. Call us.
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