Breaking Bad

Winnipeg Free Press, December 7, 2013 | Go to article overview

Breaking Bad


Know how to deal with employees' DISRUPTIVE BEHAVIOURS

It's been a wild month of unflattering and unbecoming behavioural antics by the now internationally famous Toronto Mayor Rob Ford. He's finally admitted to drinking in the mayor's office, drinking and driving, and smoking crack. I'm sure that's not exactly the kind of role model Toronto was looking for.

However, let's face it, in spite of everything, Ford was elected by the people, and although shaky, he continues to stand in the role. In fact, legislation prevents fellow councillors from rectifying the situation and so the only thing they can do is sanction him.

Thankfully, nonsense such as Ford's outlandish behaviour would not be tolerated in the workplace. Or would it? To be honest, there are a number of challenges to be considered when encountering inappropriate employee behaviour and a number of strategies for dealing with these situations. None of them is straightforward and many of the issues are not well managed.

For instance, I've seen employers react quickly to situations by terminating their employee without sufficient consideration for accommodation and/or due process. As you might expect, this often leads to legal action being taken against the employer. I've also seen organizational leaders, especially small-business owners, continually make up excuses for their wayward employee. These leaders truly feel sorry for the employee and they kind-heartedly worry about the employee's family to the exclusion of their own business needs.

I've also seen leaders spend a good deal of time attempting to dig deep into an employee's life in order to find some sort of psychological rationale for the employee's behaviour.

Finally, I've seen some employers fail to deal with a challenging situation of addiction or mental health because they are fearful of losing their employee, especially if they've been with their organization for a longer period of time and/or have a specialized skill.

However, if you really think about it, failing to effectively deal with tough situations of any employee misconduct and/or mental health and/or addiction issues simply harms the business as well as all the other important internal employee relationships. Like it or not, employees are very observant, and if these challenging issues are not dealt with, respect for the leader will be lost. When this happens, overall employee productivity typically declines and the organizational culture becomes dysfunctional. On the other hand, employee colleagues start to experience their own mental-health problems that soon can lead to absenteeism, increased disability claims and/or employee turnover.

So, the question to be asked is: what is the most effective means of dealing with these employee situations be they extreme or not? The answer lies in having specific human resource policies and procedures that ensure compliance with legislation, ensure a thorough yet fair process and involves training managers to follow these procedures.

First of all, the policy needs to state the expectations for all employees with respect to professional behavior and the fact the organization has the right to take corrective action, which may include termination of employment, depending on the severity of the offence or performance issue. Secondly, the policy needs to create a framework that ensures any and all steps comply with legislation. Deploying the following steps will ensure a thorough yet fair investigation and treatment of your employees.

Quickly assess the situation

Meet with the employee and gather the facts related to the "what, where, when, where, why and how" of the incident(s). Situations related to a breach of company policy or a lack of communication can often be dealt with through a quick informal inquiry. More serious situations such as inappropriate personal behavior and/or addictions will require a more formal and comprehensive approach. This step provides an opportunity to ensure managers and supervisors have complied with employment law as well as company policies and minimizes the risk of creating embarrassing mistakes. …

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