Remedies for Bad Behaviour

Shawnee Love   •  
June 6, 2014

It is often assumed that the appropriate consequence for bad behavior at work is discipline. While there is certainly a time and a place, punishment is often not the right approach.

Punishment works when the bad behavior is intentional and/or malicious.   It is also appropriate if the behavior is repeated and other approaches aren’t working.  And it is necessary if the behavior is so serious that it is warranted.

And I hate to admit it, but sometimes punishment is needed to send a message (although I recognize that is often not fair to the individual being punished. E.g., companies will punish to show they are serious about curbing an activity that in the past was accepted- e.g., bullying.)

But beyond punishment, here are a few options:

  1. Training.  If bad behavior is due to not knowing any differently, then training of the kind that will transfer back to the workplace is likely the best approach.
  2. Conflict resolution.  Sometimes bad behavior between two or more people needs someone to facilitate or mediate the relationship before the parties can move forward.
  3. Apologies. Even if people think they are right, they can still apologize for annoying the other person. However, these only work if they are sincere and thus they are hard to force if the person who was found to be the offending party refuses to accept responsibility.
  4. Teambuilding.  Let’s face it, people don’t often understand how to work in a team or at the very least don’t have common understanding.  Teambuilding efforts can help.
  5. Leadership change.  Lots of bad behavior in the workplace exists because leaders exhibit it themselves and/or condone it when it happens by not taking action or even passively participating.  Change the leader= Change in the followers.
  6. Job Description/ Workflow Improvements. I can’t tell you how many investigations into territorialism and “that’s not my job” attitudes are grounded in unclear job responsibilities and who does what.
  7. And last but not least, if the bad behavior is minor, public humiliation can work.  It feels terrible to say it and certainly is the opposite of PC, but sometimes we have to be practical and go with what works.

As you can see from all of these, the right remedy depends on the reasons motivating the bad behavior. I.e. The Context which is another reason why context is so important.

If you have any other suggestions for what works, please comment below.