October 30, 2014

Don’t Reward Bad Behavior – How To Address Challenging Team Members

What happens when a co-worker or team member speaks in an aggressive or passive aggressive manner that tends to take over or misdirect your meetings and your projects? If you sit there in silence, it’s a passive way of condoning their message.

Of course, being silent doesn’t automatically mean that you agree with what’s happening — at least in your head. You just may be tired of addressing it. Or you don’t think it’s a big deal, so you let it go.

After 12 years in management I understand that the leader sets the tone. And whatever she allows will continue to happen.

Situations won’t just disappear because you wish they would. 

You and your leaders have to address issues. And how you do this sets the tone for your company environment.

You won’t have the privilege of being the teams BFF (best friend forever). But you can have their respect and be surrounded by a productive and effective group that moves your company forward — and that’s good for business.

Instead of rewarding bad behavior with your silence, here are three decisive moves to help protect and restore your standards and the teams focus.

1) Create a standard for company behavior. 

Teach that standard during orientation and bring it up periodically during your regular staff meetings and trainings.

2) When a team member violates that standard, then remind them and move on. 

A former employee used to disrupt every staff meeting and training session that he was in with me. This included holding side conversations with other team members, changing the subject and/or consistently challenging why we had to do this type of training.

Nothing we did in that company was fluff, so I stood my ground and trained my team in a way that cut down the turnover rate. But I also addressed every aggressive and passive aggressive attack directly and calmly.

Being direct doesn’t mean that you have to “go off.” It does mean, however, that you have to stand up and lead your team.  If you don’t, an unofficial leader will.

3) If it continues to happen, then the reprimand needs to be formal and documented. 

Addressing them directly allows you to deal from one grown up to another. It demonstrates that “even though we have a problem, I’m looking to catch you doing good as much as possible.”

But as my father says, some people will “mistake your kindness for weakness.” And you will have to address that — all effective leaders do.

Your goal is to build a strong team that supports your clients. 

Likewise, as they serve your clients, you serve your team.

You have to train them to make sure they are qualified.

You have to work to understand their true motives to ensure that they match your company values. If those values don’t line up, it will be a problem down the road.

And then you have to put them in the right position. And sometimes that position is not with your team or your company. Instead of letting it die a slow death and destroy your small business team in the process. You may need to get them out of the wrong position and the right person in as soon as you possibly can. You have a business to run.

Legal Issues

If you’re concerned about potential legal issues, then talk to your human resources department, a lawyer who specializes in human resources, or the director at the department of labor to understand your rights as an employer.

I had to move that employee off my team. Eventually, he left the company on his own, and we haven’t worked together in over 5 years. But he called last week praising the training and thanking me.

I appreciated the call. But isn’t that funny?

Note to self:

  1. Run your company or department,
  2. Protect your team,
  3. Respect your people — all of them, and
  4. Keep it moving.


Bad Business Behavior Photo via Shutterstock

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Jamillah Warner


Jamillah Warner Jamillah Warner (Ms.J), a poet with a passion for business, is a Georgia-based writer and speaker and the Marketing Coordinator at Nobuko Solutions. She also provides marketing and communication quick tips in her getCLEAR! MicroNewsletter.

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