Working with a Disruptive Employee

Working along a disruptive employee leads to bad morale for everyone. It drains the energy and patience out of co-workers and even the most tolerant of managers. In this video, Robin discusses ways to work through a situation where an employee is always upsetting the apple cart as well as emphasizing the importance of dealing with this important situation in a timely manner.

It’s pretty easy to identify the attributes of a high performing team, just as easy as is it to identify a disruptive employee, but we tend to let these situations linger for far too long. Working along an employee who is uncooperative, spiteful, demeaning, or always nit-picking leads to bad morale and lots of negativity in the workplaces, including your own. It drains the energy and patience out of even the most tolerant managers.

In this video, I’m going to be talking about some ways to work through a situation where an employee is upsetting the apple cart. And I’m going to be emphasizing the importance of dealing with this important situation in a timely manner as well.

What I Mean By “Disruptive Employee”

First, let’s talk about what I mean by disruptive employee. This is not the person who has had a single bad day but has a pattern of bad behaviors, especially as it relates to causing disruptive among fellow employees. This person may always be spreading gossip, always being negative, challenging others to an extreme and/or with intent to introduce doubt or confusion as opposed to helping resolve or sort through a challenge with more constructive means. I’m not trying to avoid conflict. Conflict actually enriches a team’s effectiveness when dealt with appropriately; this is an employee who is constantly stirring the pot for no benefit or goal.

Approaches to Dealing with Employee Conflict

In other videos in the Learning Resource Center, I’ve talked about working through conflict constructively so I won’t go into those details here. But those concepts apply, like having one-on-one conversations to understand where the individual is coming from, and holding people accountable to the expectations for acceptable behaviors. In the case of a longer, more intense situation, this tends to go on because the work function of that person tends to acceptable or even deemed as quite good. And the manager doesn’t want to lose that component of a person’s productivity. However, you’d be so surprised at how much the negative impact of this disruptive issue creates problems, not only for the person’s productivity but for everyone else!

I often hear the refrain (from managers who appreciate the value and the work of a particular person say: “If only they could get along with others.” Yes, if only they could, but if they can’t, it does need to be addressed.

Deal Directly and Fairly with a Disruptive Employee

So here are a few other ideas to help you along the way.

The first is to deal directly and fairly with the employee. Be objective. Don’t call it an attitude problem, it’s too subjective and difficult to hold accountable for something that they don’t understand what they attitude refers to. Give them concrete examples of the impact to the work. Rather than saying, “You hurt someone’s feelings,” or “that wasn’t appropriate,” help them see what the impact (or lack thereof) was for the work at hand.

Another idea is to have the team work to establish a joint understanding of ‘standards of conduct’ or ‘work guidelines’ so that everyone has input as to what will and won’t be acceptable. That helps everyone hold each other accountable so you aren’t singling out one person.

Support the person as best you can to make changes but in the end, if they can’t, don’t feel guilty. It is the responsibility of the disruptive person to recognize and repair the situation; it is your responsibility to identify the expectations and uphold those for every employee.

Managing the Situation Will Benefit You and Your Entire Team

You are also going to build respect from your team when they see that you have handled this. Intuitively, they know whether you and dealing with this or not and they are suffering from this work environment. It also frees up your time; there is only so much bandwidth you have to deal with everything on your plate so why spend it on something so counterproductive?

Give the person adequate time and information to change but in the end, it is much more detrimental to you, your team, and your organization to leave a disruptive person in place.

Be sure to check out other videos in the Learning Resource Center, available to you as a member. Here’s to your Graceful Leadership!

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