Steps To Turn Around Abrasive Employee Behavior

This is a four part series of blogs addressing the question “Can abrasive employees really change?”.  In Part I we addressed the importance of the manager working through their own anxiety before intervening with the abrasive employee.  Today we address how to create the conditions of change through a proven change process.


Change is possible
From my years as a Marriage & Family Therapist, I know that change is possible.  Whether it was seeing couples reconcile their marriage after one or both spouses had an affair or seeing an alcoholic embrace recovery, people can change.  Change is most possible with involvement in a proven change process.


When an employee is told the abrasive behavior is unacceptable and needs to stop, it is their choice as to how they respond.  Some may not see a problem, terminate their employment and move on to their next job and most likely engage in the same behaviors.  Some may believe they can change on their own or with the help of a mentor.



Without the structure of a proven change process, the question becomes, does true change really happen?  Change may happen initially but gradually old behaviors creep in.  While a mentor may be a support, they may not be able to provide key insights in dealing with the underlying fears, defensive, and at times manipulation of the abrasive employee.

Structure brings new awareness, skills and behaviors
To increase the likelihood of genuine change, a structured process provides the insight needed for the employee to address unconscious automatic abrasive behaviors and the impact of those same behaviors on others.  Such a program gets to the root of the abrasive behavior and teaches new skills, abilities, and capacities. Below are the elements of a proven change process that create the conditions for change to occur.


6 Key Elements of a proven change process to turnaround abrasive behavior:
  1. Structured time and place the employee attends on a consistent basis
  2. Content and principles that provide insight to the root of abrasive behavior
  3. Feedback about the negative perceptions of co-workers and customers to get beyond blind spots to behavioral change
  4. Emotional Intelligence skills to improve interpersonal competence
  5. Accountability to integrate new behaviors and as well as feedback from co-workers that change is occurring
  6. Clear intended consequences if the abrasive behavior does not stop
Examples of emotional intelligence skills needed to improve interpersonal competence:
  • Awareness and acknowledgement of the impact of abrasive behavior on others
  • Self-control over temper and ability to manage emotions
  • Replace abrasiveness with positive approaches in managing people
  • Empathy – acknowledging other’s feelings and show concern
  • Ability to listen to other’s ideas and willingness to consider viewpoints different from their own
Most employees who have abrasive behaviors tend to be very good at their jobs from a performance perspective.  They add value to the organization in terms of profits and skill set, and are worth investing in.  As an employer or manager when considering whether to invest in a structured process for a abrasive employee, it can save you money and headache in the long run when compared to costs associated with new hires, orientation, and retraining.  If the employee chooses not to change, you know have tried to help them with the best possible resources.


If you have an abrasive employee, make the Conscious Choice to offer a proven change process to increase the likelihood of creating the conditions for lasting change


This is the second in a four part series of blogs “Can abrasive employees really change?”.  Part III addresses the importance of accountability to increase the likelihood abrasive behavior turnaround.

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