Why Bad Behavior Just Won't Do


From A Managers Perspective

Have you ever noticed bad behavior in the workplace? It probably starts out small…someone says something not appropriate or even disrespectful. You hear it…but let it go thinking it’s probably just a one-time behavior. Maybe the person is having a bad day and they happen to take it out on a co-worker who seemed to take it all in stride. But then it happens again. This time it upsets someone, and you see them walk away in tears.

When is it not okay to avoid handling bad behavior on your team?

The answer is NEVER!

Avoiding the situation doesn’t ever fair well for your team or the company as a whole. When you condone bad behavior of any kind whether it be bullying, saying things that are inappropriate or disrespectful, and especially inappropriate sexual behaviors…you are setting yourself (and your company) up for a situation that can reel out of control quickly.

The easiest thing to do is handle it immediately when it happens. Let the person know that what they did or said was not acceptable. I hate to say it…but back in the day, the vast majority of people understood what was appropriate and what wasn’t in the work place.

Now…not so much. Different people have different ideas about how they can act and how they can speak in a work environment. Some are okay, and others are clearly not.

How Do You Set the Tone?

Setting the tone for appropriate behavior is not as hard as you might think. It actually becomes very easy if you set the expectations right up front. If you are a new manager of a team share with them your behavior expectations. When someone new joins your team review behavior expectations…and it’s not a bad idea to share them during the interview as well. It may remove any candidates that may have issues adhering to those expectations.

It should be said that while you, as a manager, expect good behavior in your department…the company as a whole should have behavior expectations. But if they don’t, that doesn’t have to stop you from creating a healthy work environment in your department.

What Are Behavior Expectations?

So, what do behavior expectations look and feel like you might ask? And how do I share them with my team? As a manager you have to lead with empathy and I assume if you’ve made it to a manager’s position you understand a thing or two about what’s appropriate and what’s not. But if you’re new to the game here’s how you can start to implement better behavior on your floor and within your team.

Start out with a blank piece of paper and write down the behaviors that you feel will help your team feel confident and happy to come to work each day.

Next write down those things that you never want to see within your team. Here’s a few examples:

  • We will never talk down to one another.
  • We will always respect each other’s ideas, thoughts, and contributions.
  • We will never be disrespectful to each other based on race, age, or gender.
  • We will always have an open mind to hear opposing thoughts from our co-workers and team.
  • We will support and help each other to accomplish our priorities, projects, and deadlines.

Don’t make the behavior expectations too lofty but just enough to share with associates the general idea of how you expect them to work together, build a team together, and succeed together.

Being a great manager is about being empathetic. What bothers some people may not bother others and some people are extremely sensitive while others have tougher skin, so to speak. Knowing the differences and never discounting how others feel is one of the toughest jobs of a manager. You have to put yourself in their shoes…understand how they feel.

What Should I Do to Address Bad Behavior?

When someone says or does something that is outside the expectations, simply pull them aside in private and share why their behavior isn’t appropriate. (Make sure you follow your HR Policies and Procedures when speaking to an associate in this manner.) The best rule is to help them understand what’s okay and what’s not. If the behavior continues this may not be a simple miss-understanding but more of a behavior issue that should be addressed in a more formal process.

Once it gets to this stage you must address it formally so that the behavior is documented. This action is necessary to protect you, your co-workers, and the company. You never want to create an environment that is unhealthy for any of your team members. When you let inappropriate behavior of any kind go unattended you can create a hostile work environment that becomes harder and harder to rectify.

As with any issue within the work place…when you don’t address them swiftly your team will start to lose respect and trust in you. They depend on you to hold everyone accountable equally and fairly.

Remember it’s never okay to let bad behavior slide in any situation!


The information contained in this article is intended to provide useful information on the topic covered, but should not be construed as legal advice or a legal opinion. Also remember that state laws may differ from the federal law.