PositivePeople July 8, 2015 No Comments

He is a workhorse who knows his stuff inside out. Customers and suppliers alike respect his commitment to their needs. He is knowledgeable and will go the extra mile to help them, always. He is respected for the work he does and for the value he passes on to customers.

Sound like an ideal employee?

Actually no, because he terrorises some of those within the organisation with his aggressive, righteous, threatening and intimidatory behaviour.

It goes something like this:

The office is quiet and everyone is busy at their work stations. Out the blue comes the barking “WHY are you doing that? If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a hundred times before, DON’T DO IT THAT WAY!”

A shake of the head and he’s gone.

The team sit in silence pretending this didn’t happen. The embarrassed victim looks down and tries to keep her composure but is obviously upset. She turns a bright red, shuffles her desk things nervously and then quickly scuttles out of the office. Her colleague quietly leaves and follows her. The regular routine of tears and angst follow.

As a responsible employer, what do you do?

This is a technically competent, committed employee who adds great value to the company. You don’t particularly want to upset him. Whilst
you may have pretended to ignore the incident and glossed over this type of unacceptable behaviour, the whispers around the office were enough to appear on your radar and you know you should have done something. It was just too hard! And, it is true, the guy is very difficult to confront.

The first thing to know is that you cannot leave this situation to stand as it does. Health and Safety requirements dictate that this
situation is addressed. Leaving it because it is too hard won’t do. There is a responsibility under the Health and Safety in Employment Act to ensure that you provide a safe work environment for all your team, and allowing this type of behaviour to exist is contrary to that. It also undermines the values and culture that you might be trying to create and maintain in your business.

It is an absolute non-negotiable that anyone in the business should not have to endure aggressive, threatening, abusive, intimidating, bullying or harassing behaviour from anyone in the organisation.

So, what are the solutions to this all too frequent problem?

Starting from the basics, within your foundation employment documents, there needs to be a Code of Conduct and a Health and Safety policy that clearly sets out the organisation’s behavioural expectations of employees. Bullying and Sexual Harassment policies also play their part in
setting standards of acceptable behaviour. Having appropriate documents properly established at the outset of employment provides the correct reference and starting point for the behaviour that you expect from employees. Reinforced by your Values and Culture Statement, you have a solid foundation from which to manage behaviour within the business.

Having these fundamental building blocks in place allows you to reinforce your behavioural (and performance) expectations at Performance
Reviews as appropriate. Additionally these can be re-stated, as required, at regular individual One-on-one meetings, Team Meetings and at State of Nation communication sessions. In this way you are regularly emphasising the importance of good behaviour at both an individual and group level, and keeping your Values top of mind.

For most, these communication channels are enough to set the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. However, it can often be that the hostile employee does not see their own behaviour as unacceptable and is simply blind in their righteousness, and views the achievement of the task as paramount, irrespective of the ructions that may result, if they even notice them.

If unacceptable behaviour does manifest itself, then the offending employee needs to be quickly brought into line. This usually only requires
a quiet, but very firm early word outlining the specific instance of unacceptable behaviour, drawing attention to the Code of Conduct and set of Values, accompanied by a reminder that any further instances will not be tolerated and will most likely result in the application of the disciplinary procedure.

Simply, the hostile team member needs to know very clearly and very early that whatever they are doing will not be tolerated. Problems with a hostile employee often fester because the behaviour is left and because the behaviour comes and goes, everyone hopes that it will simply “go away”. Unfortunately this passive inaction just encourages more of the same, and it is often the more junior staff who take the brunt of the bullying, threats or discourtesy. To condone such behaviour not only kills the positive culture in the business but is against the law. It is also manifestly unfair on the victims.

Anger and other forms of intimidatory behaviour in the workplace have no place and the responsibility to manage the hostile employee
rests fairly and squarely with the employee’s Manager who has daily contact and sees the unacceptable behaviour in operation. Sweeping it under the carpet or ignoring it is not an option. The Manager has to front up and deal with it.

Is your business condoning bad behaviour?

Positive People has a history of assisting businesses set up effective individual and group communication channels and policies to address this type of difficulty. Give us a call to talk through any issue you may have.

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