Difficult Behaviour - 30 September 2014
Difficult behaviour comes in many forms. In the workplace, this includes employees who are rude, aggressive, disrespectful and temperamental. It's also anyone who hurls insults, talks condescendingly, blames others and is hard to get along with.
Two new studies have been released that shed some light on how to deal with it. The first, published in the Journal of Occupational Health Psychology, has found employees are more likely to be difficult if they’ve been the victims of similar behaviour in the past.
This means you need to be mindful you’re not encouraging such behaviour, albeit unconsciously. If, for instance, you notice it and you don’t immediately confront it, you’re inadvertently encouraging it to continue. And, if someone who’s notoriously difficult gets promoted or receives a rare opportunity, you’re again encouraging the widespread adoption of that behaviour because, in effect, you’re rewarding it.
The second study, conducted in Australia by Macquarie University, is especially fascinating. The researchers found difficult employees increase their colleagues’ stress and diminish their colleagues’ engagement. No surprises there, really. Except that the solution for those two consequences is very different depending on which one is present.
If the difficult behaviour causes stress, the solution is supervisor support. This means your well-behaved employees will feel less stressed when you demonstrate interest and care for their wellbeing. This helps them cope because it makes them feel as though they’re valued and appreciated despite the negativity that surrounds them.
But if the difficult behaviour causes disengagement, supervisor support is actually not the answer. The answer is a more positive self-perception, which comprises self-esteem, confidence, emotional stability and capability. In other words, the more highly your employees think of themselves, the less likely they’ll be affected by difficult colleagues.
So how can you enhance their self-perception? A few ideas:
- Provide training and coaching on resilience.
- Make available the tools and resources they need to get on with the job.
- Orchestrate work in such a way that positive employees have more influence.
- Role model the behaviour you want them to emulate.
- Praise their contributions.
Because, to paraphrase (and adapt) the old maxim, having a low self-perception is like driving at work with the hand-break on.
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