Behaving Badly

Posted on September 7, 2011.

Thinking about the Bad Attitude question also reminded me of another interesting statement from Dr. Gustavo Grodnitzky: Environment has more influence on behavior than personality. In business, environment equates to corporate culture.  His point is that a person who behaves badly at work does so because the corporate culture permits it, not because of their inherent personality. If there were no consequences to bad behavior, why would you stop? My theory is that managers don't address the bad behavior of a team member for a variety of reasons, but here are some of the biggest ones:

Fear of confrontation is a very common reason. Very few people love confrontation, but you have to overcome this one if you want to succeed as a manager. We can promise that it does get easier over time, but you have to do it.

The manager just may not care that the team member’s behavior is out of line. In a lot of offices, if you are getting your job done, your behavior is justified, no matter how far out of the norm it is. In our view, this is not a good practice if that team member’s behavior is having an adverse impact on team performance.  

The manager is just not aware of it because they are in a different location, or just not around when the behavior occurs. This is a tougher situation, because it is generally not a good idea to confront someone without having observed their behavior.  In rare cases, you have to do this just because there are overwhelming third party observations and complaints about the person’s behavior. If you have to confront someone in this manner, gather a lot of specific information from multiple, reliable third parties that you can address with the person.

While you can’t prevent all bad behavior, the best defense is a good offense.  Setting expectations of employee behavior at the beginning of their employment, or at least at the beginning of their management by you, can go a long way toward keeping bad behavior out of your workplace.