Turning Around Counterproductive Behavior
Employees represent a significant investment on the part of companies. Though the media makes it sound like employees who mess up or hit a trouble spot are immediately fired, most companies are more interested in trying to resolve the situation to protect their investment. Companies and their managers (like you) often genuinely care about the happiness and well being of employees.
Consistent, regular feedback is the most effective means to keep most employees on the right track when it comes to job performance and compliance with company rules and policies. Consider this an incremental process; no one makes major changes overnight. If you see a pattern of behavior emerging, focus on one facet of it at a time. If the issue is time management, you might cover establishing timelines this week and prioritizing next week. This is a work in progress, and results won't necessarily be consistent. But be patient. This is the most important kind of shaping, and it's well worth the effort and time you put into it.
Sometimes inappropriate behavior at work reflects problems outside the workplace, such as at home. A spouse or child may be ill or a marriage breaking up. There may be financial difficulties or substance abuse. Sometimes inappropriate behavior is a warning sign of deeper personal issues, such as drug use or psychological problems. Many companies offer employee assistance program (EAP) benefits or other services to get troubled employees the help they need. Employees who have a lot of personal problems or who aren't a good fit with their jobs or work groups often end up becoming self-destructive. Clearly this is not good for them, for other employees, or for the company. Signs that this is happening include these:
Not getting work done on time or even at all
A generally negative attitude
Yelling and angry outbursts
Engaging in passive-aggressive behavior (actions that appear legitimate or helpful but really are not)
Trying to rally other employees to side with them
Going from cubicle to office to cubicle, stirring up trouble
Tuning out or being argumentative at staff meetings
Showing up late, leaving early, or taking excessively long lunches
Staying on the phone for a long time, often on personal calls or discussing personal matters with coworkers or customers
Flagrantly violating or ignoring company policies
Inappropriate behavior may be nothing more than the actions of someone who doesn't really know how he or she is supposed to behave in the workplace. Sometimes the employee's work style is the primary factor in performance and production matters. And sometimes people simply have trouble finding their bearings, particularly in times of major change such as corporate restructuring. New employees as well as seasoned employees for whom these job responsibilities depart from previous experience might be struggling to find a good match between their personal work styles and their new job assignments.
Employees need to know that they really can come to you whenever they feel they need to, not just when you determine it's appropriate for them to do so.