How HR Can Help Managers Tackle Disruptive Employees

HR Insights for Professionals

HR Insights for ProfessionalsThe latest thought leadership for HR pros

Monday, August 12, 2019

Managers must be prepared to handle disruptive employees to limit negative effects on other staff who are trying to do their jobs and maintain productivity for the organization as a whole.

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Every HR manager has a wide range of responsibilities, but arguably one of the most important is maintaining standards in the workforce.

Employees are expected to behave in a certain way to ensure the business is functioning efficiently and presenting a professional image to customers at all times. A significant decline in behavioral standards can result in not only a lack of professionalism, but a potentially more serious problem of certain employees causing disruption for their co-workers and the company as a whole.

This is an area where HR needs to support general managers in spotting warning signs and stopping minor issues from escalating into big problems. Here are some of the things you can do to help managers deal with staff who are becoming disruptive:

1. Encourage them to listen

Good listening can be a very powerful thing in the workplace. Employees who feel they are constantly being told what to do by out-of-touch managers, or simply ignored, will feel less engaged and motivated to do their best work for the company.

Like many employee performance issues, disruptive behavior can have an underlying cause that managers can identify by showing an interest in the individual and listening to what they have to say.

Focused training can help managers become better listeners through techniques such as active listening, which requires maximum concentration to fully absorb what is being said. Both verbal and non-verbal feedback are also important to show the speaker they are being heard and to make them feel at ease.

2. Emphasize consistency and balance

A consistent and coherent approach to managing disruptive behavior is vital to ensure that all employees are being treated fairly. If some members of the workforce feel they are receiving unfair treatment, the risk of their conduct declining further and causing more serious problems will increase.

If someone approaches their manager with a complaint or to raise an issue about someone causing disruption in the workplace, the manager has a responsibility to investigate all sides of the matter. One of the most common pitfalls for line managers to avoid is drawing hasty, unfounded conclusions, based on assumptions about the employee in question.

It’s also a good idea to encourage managers to show consistency in how they conduct themselves around the workplace. Employees pay just as much attention to what their managers do as what they say, so everyone should adhere to the same behavior guidelines and expectations.

3. Document everything

Keeping detailed documentation of all events and employee interactions related to potentially disruptive behavior helps to ensure you always have records to refer back to, should you need to at any point in the future.

In complicated, drawn-out cases involving several people, individual perspectives are likely to become vague and unreliable over time. Detailed written records provide a simple solution to this problem.

Should the situation deteriorate to the point that you need to let someone go, documented accounts of unacceptable behavior will provide the evidence you need to justify the dismissal. In most cases, it won’t be necessary to go this far, but detailed records will still prove extremely useful when you need to make key decisions and have informed, constructive conversations with managers and staff.

4. Provide resources

The job of managers who have to deal with disruptive employees can be made a lot easier if they are able to access resources that are specifically designed to address certain issues in the workforce.

An employee assistance program (EAP), for example, can prove beneficial if the decline in the individual’s conduct at work is related to issues in their personal life. EAPs can help managers support their team members with challenges such as their work/life balance, family problems, financial difficulties or other sources of stress.

Focused training schemes are another valuable resource that can deliver worthwhile results for managers and help employees develop new methods and strategies to improve their behavior and productivity at work.

5. Keep HR policies up to date

It’s important that managers have up-to-date and consistent HR policies to refer to, should they ever find themselves managing situations where disruptive or unacceptable behavior is causing major problems.

By keeping up with the latest regulatory requirements and trends in areas such as workplace harassment, discrimination, bullying and equality, for example, you can ensure you always have relevant policies in place and managers know where they stand when it comes to maintaining standards and potentially starting disciplinary proceedings.

A close and collaborative relationship between the HR department and line managers helps to minimize the risk of disruptive individuals affecting the wider workforce and hindering business performance.

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