Leadership roles are accompanied by great responsibility and many of these relate to managing the workload or behaviours of others in the workplace.
This can be intensified when many employees often look to the top for solutions to any disruptions that occur. Managing individuals who are exhibiting negative behaviours can be a difficult and time consuming task; however, leaving this unchecked is actually more detrimental. If these behaviours are left to grow, they will bring down the morale and productivity of everyone else in the team, which could have a knock-on effect within your client relationships. To really tackle these behaviours, you need to invest time to get to their root and see if the cause of these behaviours may lie in some of your current workplace practices.
Why is this happening?
Some behaviours which may have a negative effect on the team, such as increased irritability or apathy when it comes to work, may actually be down to stress or burnout. If this is the case, a different response to the behaviour is required in order to truly tackle the real issue at hand. It is very likely that if these feelings of stress are dealt with, the negative behaviours will also go away. Investing time in uncovering the real reasons for the behaviours not only helps the individual, as they will be able to share their stresses and have the opportunity to work through this with their managers, but also is very beneficial for the leadership team as it clearly highlights where there are gaps in the employee wellbeing policies. Plugging this gap will ensure no-one slips through the gaps in the future.
Similarly, by getting together and working out why this is happening, you will be able to see if any themes arise. For example, if there are many employees exhibiting the same negative behaviour, it should be a clear indication that your company values or expectations are not being communicated effectively throughout the organisation. Whilst this process may be very time-costly, it should mean you will not have to revisit the issue.
Strategies to tackle negative behaviours
Having the right practices in place from the offset helps to prevent any negative behaviours from turning toxic:
- Empower middle and senior management – Make sure adequate time is invested in fully preparing both middle and senior managers to deal with any situations that arise. This will take the pressure off those at the top who often need to spend a large proportion of their time firefighting. Make sure the company values are instilled into all managers so they can model exactly what is to be expected of everyone.
- Escalation policy – Make sure that everyone is aware of what is expected of them and the consequences if they do not adhere to these guidelines. These should be clearly displayed in a way that is easy to digest for all. Both employees and the leadership team should be subject to the same guidelines.
Even after tackling the root cause and having preventative measures in place, it is possible that some disruptive behaviours may turn toxic and you will need to tackle these accordingly. Rather than just telling someone their behaviour is ‘bad’, clearly show them the consequences of their actions on the rest of the team, the project or the client relationship. If they can see the negative ramifications of their actions they are more likely to reconsider their behaviours. You should focus on reminding them what is expected of them and the company values rather than just what they shouldn’t be doing.
Investing time in dealing with disruptive behaviours will benefit the individual in question, as there may be underlying causes that warrant further attention – but it will also benefit the organisation as a whole as teams will remain productive and any recurring negative themes will be stamped out for good.
About the authors:
Karen Meager and John McLachlan set up Monkey Puzzle Training and Consulting to support leaders and teams in their professional and personal growth through training, coaching and business strategy events. They take the latest scientific and academic thinking and make it accessible and usable in peoples’ work and everyday life.
Monkey Puzzle teach people to understand their thought processes and why they (and others) behave in the way they do. These skills enable individuals to choose how they want to behave to get the results they want, which leads to a less stressful, more fulfilling life.