Bullying, sabotaging, negativity, aggression, factionalism – the list of destructive work behaviours that can blight the workplace is a sadly familiar one. Recent research suggests that the costs of poor work behaviour in terms of dysfunctional working relationships, low productivity, employment disputes and absence due to stress are huge – and that it’s high time we started taking problem work behaviour seriously.
Research by the CIPD has shown that many managers are reluctant to address difficult work behaviour at an early stage. This can often be down to fear of doing or saying the wrong thing, exacerbating the problem and ending up in a tribunal. But failing to address issues when they arise can undermine managers’ authority and credibility and can give the impression that certain negative behaviours will be tolerated – which can make it even harder to address problems later on when they become more serious.
Acknowledging the impact of difficult work behaviour
Barry Winbolt, workplace mediator and business psychologist, feels that we underestimate the cost of problem behaviour at our peril.
“I think it’s probably the last unmeasured factor in companies these days. We are so obsessed with the bottom line and making money…very few people are quantifying the cost of that small percentage of people that use obstructive behaviour. It’s costly – and you cannot afford to ignore it.”
The time to address a person’s work behaviour is when it starts to affect their own performance, that of a colleague or even the organisation as a whole. And while many of us prefer to address a problem once we know the cause, with many behaviours being complex and deep-rooted, the best solution is really to focus on the desired outcome and how best to achieve it.
Why avoiding difficult people isn’t the answer
Business psychologist Linda Doe believes that the key to dealing with problem behaviours is tapping into the skills that we use in our everyday lives.
“What I find in working with organisations is that the most common problem is avoidance. In life, we all meet people that we get on with, or we don’t get on with – and we have a really good way of working around people and dealing with problem behaviours. But suddenly we get into the workplace and we find that everyone is dealing with the world in a different way. So what we tend to do is avoid it.”
Dealing effectively with problem work behaviours in the workplace can be the key to building great staff relationships and unlocking potential.
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