Managing Problem Behaviour In 3 Steps

It is very common that if you really have to use those ratings thing in appraisals/performance reviews then most people will tick the 'meets expectations' box. The reality if you asked managers behind closed doors is that they are probably also assigning this rating to 'problem children' they manage. The ones who are quite 'negative' in meetings or are 'aggressive' with others. The ones who we tiptoe around depending on their mood and the people who are a bit obstructive, don't play nicely, don't respond to emails, forever need chasing or just work in the cliche 'silo'!

You see, we really don't deal with concerning behaviour/habits until it explodes into such a big issue that a disciplinary warning is potentially required. We manage round it, hope it will go away, justify it to ourselves but what we don't do is - well, just tackle it.

The odd half-chat isn't enough and waiting until things are so bad that formal action is taken isn't the best idea either. There is a another way however that folds what needs doing into three neat chronological steps:

  1. The difficult conversation. Not the one where you do a 's*** sandwich', use lots of buzzwords and don't really say it how you see it. It's the chat that clearly talks factually about what you and others see/hear, the impact it has and what needs to happen instead. If you have to intervene a lot in my work to correct it or spend a lot of time chasing me for updates - then just tell me! You don't need to add subjective words like 'proactive', 'dynamic' or 'responsive'. This straight-talking chat needs to happen just once, perhaps twice at the most.
  2. The behavioural objective. No-one writes them, no-one comes up with them! Our managers struggle already with job objectives without also having to try and target the behaviour required of someone and mould this into a written objective that can be reviewed in regular 121s. This is a skill that needs mastering; I spend lots of time with lots of managers getting this tricky step right because it beautifully acts as the bridge between the informal chat and anything more formal. An example for someone 'negative'?: 'For every two objections you have to an idea, suggest an alternative that some agree with'.
  3. Disciplinary action. Not positive, not particularly nice but it is the last resort option available - and your team member needs to know it's a potential option if there is no improvement.

There is always a solution to problem behaviours/habits at work. We didn't observe this in the person when they started working in the organisation. Slowly, as they got more comfortable, the 'real' them started to come to work; their 'real' personalities started to show and sometimes with this comes the dodgy behaviour that needs nipping in the bud - quickly! But, just because you and others have put up with it for a while doesn't mean that the three step approach cannot start when we can't 'live with it' any longer. What concerning habits need addressing in your team?

Reimaging SMART objectives, difficult conversation technique and how to create attitude/behaviour objectives - Check out our flexible, virtual Painless People Management Programme