The tension in the conference room is palpable. You dart your eyes toward an employee with a history of being easily angered and argumentative. Your team is presenting a new idea, but their colleagues do not share their enthusiasm. What started as a healthy debate is now escalating. You believe in the value of everyone feeling heard and trust your team to resolve disagreements and find a solution. But there is one wild card. You watch him closely, prepared to shut down the meeting if he goes too far or gets too angry when his suggestion is dismissed. You are prepared for the complaints you’re sure to receive from employees when he begins taking his frustration out on the team. You know you can no longer tolerate this behavior; you are at a loss.
Do not hesitate to take action if you have experienced a similar situation. Your team is watching for you to right wrongs, resolve the tension, and eliminate a toxic work environment. Below we’ll help you discover what steps you need to take to protect your team, address issues of anger and disrespect, and cultivate a supportive work environment.
What is disrespectful behavior in the workplace?
Any inappropriate, unprofessional, rude, unpleasant, or offensive behavior is considered disrespectful and should not be tolerated. This behavior can fall into four categories:
1. Bullying Behavior: This includes a shift in power or a toxic work environment due to an individual targeting specific people through repeated negative actions.
2. Uncivil Behavior: This is a blatant disregard for other employees.
3. Verbal Abuse: This is harsh and insulting language.
4. Abrasive Behavior: This causes emotional distress in employees, which reduces the organization's effectiveness.
Examples of disrespectful behavior in the workplace include, but are not limited to:
- Gossiping or lying
- Shouting or speaking in hostile tones
- Speaking or acting inappropriately
- Demeaning a colleague
- Expressing a biased attitude or belief
- Throwing something when angry
How do you prevent disrespectful behavior in the workplace?
The best way to prevent disrespectful behavior is to hire people with high moral integrity. If your organization is filled with men and women of strong character, disrespectful behavior will never be an issue. You can also reinforce high moral values in the company through ethics training, displaying slogans or company mottos, and reiterating the values of the company and its employees during staff meetings. Don’t forget your influence as a leader. You essentially give your employees the green light to imitate your behavior if you treat your employees with disrespect or reveal your anger and frustration. Treat every employee with respect, kindness, and patience. You create a culture of respect and positivity when you refuse to react negatively but cool off before responding to frustrating situations. Or when you support your employees during their bad days. Regularly evaluate your company's culture to ensure a productive, healthy work environment.
How do you deal with disrespectful employees?
If you have an employee that exhibits disrespectful behavior in the workplace, consider applying the following methods:
- Stay calm when facing disrespect. Try to remain calm and respectful to prevent the situation from escalating. Resist the urge to react, defend, or reply disrespectfully to your offender. Try to create a productive conversation.
- Listen. You may be tempted to ignore a disrespectful employee rather than interact with them. However, if you listen carefully to what they are saying, you may discover important issues in the company that need to be addressed.
- Give clear feedback. Tell your employee exactly what behavior is inappropriate and what they need to change.
- Document incidents. Keep a record of disrespectful or inappropriate incidents and how it was handled. You may need this document if this employee sues the company for wrongful termination.
- Be consistent. Give your employees clear expectations and respond the same way, every time, to every person if those expectations are not met. Your inconsistency will cause confusion and frustration.
- Enforce consequences. Establish the consequences for an employee who treats employees with disrespect. Give clear expectations for their improvement and outline disciplinary actions if the employee does not improve. Then, be sure to follow through with the consequences.
- Check in on your employees. Be sure your employees are not being bullied, ridiculed, or treated poorly by anyone in the company. If you learn that anyone is being disrespected, respond in a manner that makes the employee feel safe and supported.
How do I create a disciplinary action policy?
A disciplinary action policy is a set of procedures leadership will take when a worker acts outside the company’s expectations. This policy gives you clear insight into how to handle disrespectful employees without the fear of legal backlash. However, establishing your expectations for every employee and the consequences of breaking them is necessary.
Here are three types of disciplinary action policies:
1. Progressive Discipline: The traditional steps of this form of discipline include a verbal warning, a written warning, a final warning, suspension or probation, and termination.
2. Training and Performance Improvement Plans: This focuses on giving the employee a chance to improve their behavior before termination. This plan includes check-ins, ethics training, defining measurable goals, and outlining the consequences if the employee cannot meet the goals.
3. Reassignment or Suspension: In a serious case that requires immediate action–but not termination–consider reassigning or suspending the employee for a set time.
A good leader will take responsibility for disrespectful employees, protect their team, and commit to resolving issues without escalating them. To learn more about conflict management and how to create a positive workplace environment, contact Front Line Leadership today.