Methods of Managing Challenging Behaviour

We all know that colleague or boss who can be termed as challenging. Challenging behaviour encompasses how people relate with others and how they approach tasks. This behaviour can harm workplace harmony, infect the culture with negativity, not to mention affect output and productivity.

Luckily there are several steps you can take to help in managing challenging behaviour. However, we have to be able to identify it in the first place. Here’s what challenging behaviour may look like:

  •       Passive aggressive attacks
  •       Verbal insults
  •       Excluding colleagues from activities and conversations
  •       Weaponised incompetence
  •       Socially inappropriate behaviour
  •       Lateness
  •       Gossiping

Train managers and supervisors

In the event that there is challenging behaviour amongst your employees, your managers will be among the first to know. They should thus be empowered to handle at least at the primary level a number of issues; from work to health and personal issues.

Equip managers and supervisors with the necessary training required to manage challenging behaviour.This training should have a suite of skills including; communication training, conflict resolution training, team building and more.

Remember to set in place systems for escalation or referring issues that have not been resolved at the supervisor or manager level.

Understand why the challenging behaviour is happening

When managing challenging behaviour in employees, it’s a good idea to get to the root cause. For instance, if a team member is constantly late and holding up meetings, talk to them to find out why. Is there something that both employee and employer can do to support them in changing this behaviour?

You might learn that an employee who has to pick up a child at lunch may always be late for afternoon meetings. Moving the meetings to another time will benefit that employee and the whole team

In investigating the reason why, zero down on whether it is a one off or a regular occurrence. By definition, behaviour is something that happens repeatedly. If an employee is late once or twice this does not constitute challenging behaviour.

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Improve communication

Miscommunication and poor communication is the root cause of so many conflicts. Failure for employees to understand each other can foster challenging behaviour. This behaviour may even end up affecting customers and clients.

Businesses need to improve communication as a way of managing challenging behaviour. They can do this by having communications skills training for all team members. Among others, such training can teach people that it is not just about the message but also how it is delivered.

Companies can also set standards, policies and processes for how communication flows to both internal and external stakeholders.

Change the environment

This point works for both managers and colleagues. If you sit next to someone who is exhibiting challenging behaviour sometimes, moving your seat could do the trick. This allows both you and them to calm down or deescalate the situation.

As a manager, if you observe a challenging dynamic between employees, consider pairing them with other colleagues they work more seamlessly with.

Confront the situation

Unfortunately moving away from the situation is not always enough to bring it to an end. Sometimes there is a need to confront the situation. However, to keep this interaction within the laws of the organisation and prevent it from turning into an extremely emotionally charged situation, report the issue to management.

A human resource manager can guide the conversation and ensure that the person at fault knows that their behaviour is negatively impacting another. In the absence of an HR manager, a supervisor can play the role.

Confronting the situation is a good idea but the managers should ensure that it is a structured conversation with a positive outcome. Be respectful of all parties, focus on the issue and avoid personal attacks.

Approaching it in this way will ensure that the behaviour is managed and more importantly, you can prevent it from repeating. Make the conversation even better by asking the participants to share what behaviours they would like to see going forward and what actions they will take.

Questions like “What will you do to make the situation better?” and “How would you like to be treated?” should be answered by employees.This will move the conversation from the realm of blame to a more solution oriented one.

Bring in professionals

While your managers may be equipped to manage some challenging behaviours, others may need more experienced resources.

Make it a point to invite professionals in the fields of team dynamics, emotional intelligence and mental health. The knowledge they impart will grow your employees’ and managers’ skills as well as nip challenging behaviours in the bud.

Be a good role model

Employees will model the behaviour they see exhibited by their managers, both the immediate ones and upper management. It is not enough to simply teach employees how to behave, as a manager you need to show them how you deal with challenging behaviour.

Doing this will further show that you are open to staff approaching you with problems. If your employees feel safe to share challenges they are having you can manage situations before they become problematic.

Be aware of cultural differences

When managing challenging behaviour with a culturally diverse workforce, you should be cognizant that what is considered ‘normal’ for one party may be the opposite for another. Some workplaces prefer to refer people to their code of conduct. This directs the behaviour of all employees.

Culturally sensitive workplaces however will adjust and react to situations with a bespoke approach. Sensitivity training for all the staff will equip everyone with the tools needed to navigate challenging behaviour respectfully.

Encourage dialogue

Having open dialogues with managers, for instance during one on one sessions, will build trust for managers and give anyone facing challenging behaviour a chance to raise an issue. Managers should also encourage teammates to have both positive and negative conversations with each other. This will build trust between colleagues and improve interpersonal relationships as well as output.

In Summary

Challenging behaviour will crop up from time to time in a workplace with multiple personalities. These behaviours should be dealt with before they disrupt workplaces.

On the other hand, challenging behaviours can offer positive insights. They can indicate where growth is needed, help organisations move away from systems that no longer work and lead to more effective workplaces.

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald Ainomugisha

Gerald is a freelance writer with a pen that is keen for entrepreneurship, business and technology. When he isn't writing insightful articles on employee engagement and corporate culture, Gerald can be found writing for a number of media outlets.