HR Management & Compliance

Stop Tolerating These Employee Behaviors

Employee behavioral problems can actually cause even more harm than it would seem on the surface. One concern is that overall employee morale may suffer if other employees perceive the organization as being tolerant of bad behavior. It could even create situations with a heightened risk of discrimination claims—especially if behavioral issues are addressed selectively.

Another risk? Not addressing bad behaviors can show other employees that these behaviors are actually acceptable, leading to a downhill slide.

Types of Negative Employee Behaviors

There are some general types of bad behavior that employers should not tolerate. Here are a few of the major behavioral types:

  • Unethical or immoral behaviors. These should not be tolerated; they are rarely (if ever) accidental. Be sure to examine the situation and see if there are deeper issues that resulted in this type of behavior. For example, is there an incentive in place to always show a profit, thus giving an indirect incentive to cheat customers? Deeper problems don’t excuse employee behavior, but uncovering the root causes can help to minimize the risk of the situation repeating itself.
  • Irresponsible or negligent actions. When an employee simply doesn’t meet his or her agreed-upon responsibilities and does not show any intention of doing so, this would be a form of being irresponsible or negligent. Clearly, there are many degrees of irresponsible actions ranging from simple things like not showing up for work on time to more complex problems like not working on all assigned tasks or showing a disregard for deadlines. On a more extreme note, this could also include things like disregard for safety rules.
  • Unprofessional behaviors. This type of behavior is meant to encompass the miscellaneous behaviors that aren’t necessarily indicative of an employee’s inability to properly and safely do the job but that simply reflect a poor sense of professionalism. This might include things like failing to follow the employer’s dress code or not being consistent in following professional communication protocols, for example.

Of course, there are varying degrees within each of these. How the employer reacts to bad employee behavior should take into account the severity of the issue at hand, as well as whether or not it is a continual problem or a first-time offense. (Though of course, sometimes one-time offenses can be severe enough to warrant disciplinary action—up to and including termination—when appropriate.)

Combating Bad Employee Behavior: What to Do Instead

Here are some ideas to combat bad employee behaviors:

  • Begin setting expectations before even hiring someone. During the interview and hiring process, information can be conveyed that sets the stage for employer expectations in terms of employee behavior.
  • Have clear disciplinary policies in place, and consistently follow them.
  • Be prompt with addressing problematic behaviors. Waiting too long—even on something seemingly minor—often makes the situation.
  • Give the employee a chance to explain his or her side of the situation. This can be an opportunity to get to the root cause, which may or may not be with that employee.
  • Train managers to address these problems consistently. Conflict avoidance is a common problem that managers need to be aware of.
  • Listen to employee complaints and investigate. Be proactive in dealing with problems before they escalate.
  • Evaluate the situation in its entirety. Sometimes it is appropriate to react differently to issues that appear similar on the surface if there are extenuating circumstances that should be taken into consideration.
  • Remember to separate behavior and performance. Sometimes an employee is performing well and meeting job requirements, but behaves in ways that are disruptive. Other times, the employee’s behaviors also negatively affect productivity. Address both issues separately when appropriate.
  • Assess the problem, and work with the employee to create a plan of action to resolve it. Set clear expectations, and outline exactly what will happen if the expectations will not be met, such as further disciplinary action, suspension, or termination. Then follow through.

Have you had to deal with employees behaving poorly? What steps did you take to prevent the situation from recurring in the future?

*This article does not constitute legal advice. Always consult legal counsel with specific questions.