Identifying Disruptive Behavior in the Workplace:
How Can I Prevent or Help the Employee?
Difficult people exist everywhere and pose problems to the overall environment and circle of people around them. The same holds true for the workplace—difficult or disgruntled employees can affect the workings of an entire department or company if they are ignored or appeased. The best ways for HR to identify when workplace behavior becomes disruptive are to observe the people around them and look out for the following signs:
What Constitutes “Disruptive”?
Everybody has a bad day every once in a while, but here are some tips for recognizing when bad or insolent behaviors become frequent, deliberate, and even targeted.
- Insubordination: The definition of insubordination is the defiance of authority or refusal to obey orders. Employees can sometimes become unruly or display various levels of misconduct, however when these types of behaviors become intentional to the point of the inability of the employee to carry out tasks or follow directives from a supervisor then it escalates to a larger problem and becomes disruptive to the workplace dynamic.
- Gossip: While gossip is a fact of life among society members, revealing personal information about a coworker can certainly become disruptive to a workplace. The problem is that the tidbit of information, often confidential in nature, can manifest as an exaggerated or sensationalized sentiment, just like in a children’s game of “telephone”. Then the situation can proliferate into one of borderline, or even full-fledged, harassment.
- Incivility or Impudence: Rude comments uttered by coworkers are often inevitable, but when the comments are accompanied by intimidating body language, a hostile tone of voice, and/or the berating of another person, then it approaches the domain of harassment and certainly disruptive behavior.
- Bullying: Since bullying has become a more commonly reported issue in our society, it is often the most prevalent of human complaints by children and adults alike. However, there are some notable differences between plain incivility or disrespect and workplace bullying. This is because bullying is a targeted behavior that occurs over an extended period of time, and is often more inconspicuous in nature. Therefore, claims of bullying cannot be taken lightly and if an employee reports one or more incidents of bullying to HR, it needs to be dealt with immediately and documented thoroughly.
The biggest bang for your buck as an HR professional is to educate your employees about disruptive behaviors early on. Comprehensive training in behavioral expectations in the workplace can result in thwarting disruptive behaviors BEFORE they happen. Implementing role-play and simulation scenarios could go a long way in laying a framework for what disruptive behavior looks like and how to avert it from escalating. There are even programs that the Department of Labor has released as blueprints for these types of trainings—namely “Leading for Respect” and “Respect in the Workplace”.
Collaborate and Listen
As an HR manager, it is integral to constantly be on the pulse of employee relations in the workplace. If you are attuned to the interconnectedness of coworkers, then the less likely situations will get unwieldy or potentially ugly. So, HR needs to pay close attention to negative interactions as they happen or are reported. Then you can insert yourself, assess the situation, and diligently document the behaviors or interactions before they get beyond the point of no return.
Lastly, if you do need to discuss inappropriate or disruptive behaviors with an employee, your delivery is very important. You want the conversation to go as innocuously and diplomatically as possible. If you separate the behavior from the person, then the employee will be more receptive to the reprimand. Specificity is also really important, because if you speak to the issue too loosely or don’t identify the exact behavior that is unacceptable, the less likely the employee is to heed the warning or internalize the constructive criticism in order to change it going forward.
LaborSoft’s innovative technology is one of many integral solutions that keep your business, in business. Our employee relations analytics, case management workflows, and our central repository of documentation streamlines case management to mitigate risk of operational bottlenecks, costly lawsuits, and legal ramifications stemming from HR issues and complaints. This sensitive data requires that maximum security protocols are in place and that your information is protected at all times.
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