You’re in your office. An employee has come to you to complain about a co-worker. This person tells you the same problematic behaviors he/she has told you before about the other employee. You wonder how much time and energy is being spent on this ongoing conflict that could be spent doing productive work.

You’ve tried different approaches and now you’re wondering what will it take to break this repetitive cycle of employee infighting, blame, and disunity…

There are three key guidelines to stop problematic employee behaviors before they begin to run the show in your work culture.

The Most Stressful Part of Being a Leader

According to a survey by Refresh Leadership, difficult conversations are the most stressful part of being a leader followed by employee accountability and conflict management. Even though you’d rather avoid it or delegate it to one of your managers, addressing problematic behavior is part of your leadership role. When you follow the guidelines below, you prevent further conflict from escalating and minimize lost productivity.

3 Guidelines To Stop Problematic Employee Behavior

  1. Intervene Early – If you tend to avoid difficult conversations or think situations will work themselves out, you’re inviting trouble. The longer you wait, the more you welcome  negativity, discord, and rifts into your work culture. When something seems off, say something.
  2. Intervene Clearly – Address what you see. “Dan, you don’t seem like yourself lately… I’ve been receiving a number of complaints about how you speak with coworkers.” State what you’re observing or what the issue is. Granted, there’s always another side, be ready for the employee to try to convince you otherwise and shift the blame to someone or something else. Clearly state how behavior or performance issues need to change so the employee understands next steps (i.e. consequences) will be taken if their behavior or performance doesn’t improve.
  3. Intervene with Consequences – If you followed the last two guidelines, it won’t be a surprise to your employee that you’re doing what you said you’d do. Follow through with consequences to convey the message that you won’t tolerate problematic behavior or performance and prove you’re a person of your word. Consequences can range from training, coaching, probation, demotion, termination, or a combination. The point is, you as the leader are taking action.

Easier Said Than Done

It would be naïve to think these guidelines are easy. Many factors including work initiatives, agreement from upper management and your conflict style are sticking points that keep leaders from addressing difficult conversations, early, clearly, and following through with consequences.

If you’d like to learn more about how to navigate around those sticking points before your next difficult conversation, book a complimentary 1-1 strategy session or see us at the Pittsburgh Human Resource Conference.  We look forward to helping you make difficult conversations stress free.  

Bonnie Artman Fox works with senior leaders who want to remedy abrasive, disruptive employee conduct. She guides leaders to adopt behaviors that strengthen organizational health to transform their culture. From over 25 years in the healthcare and psychology fields, she applies her expertise to intervene, coach, and consult with leaders so teams get along, work gets done, and people have fun along the way! Click here to learn more or bring Bonnie to your company.

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