Jerks Kill Productivity

A recent study indicated that nearly two thirds of employees are not engaged at work. For a variety of reasons, workers would rather be anywhere but in their workplace. Often it’s not the work that people dread, it’s the interaction with specific co-workers.  A LinkedIn article, The Top Ten Reasons People Hate Their Jobs listed “Their Boss Sucks” as number one.  And it’s not always the boss who’s the problem. Colleagues can make the workday pretty miserable, too.

It’s disheartening to hear countless stories about workplace environments that range from annoying to unbearable due to obnoxious behavior.

How about the CEO who can’t understand why his people don’t seem to care deeply about the success of the company and at the same time does nothing about a fellow C-level exec who treats everyone horribly.

Or the sales manager who regularly berates her internal support team, with screaming and profanity being the norm.

Then there’s the middle manager who refuses to use the subject line in emails, making it excruciating for co-workers to trace conversation threads. It may seem like a small issue, but staying on top of email is a common and constant struggle.  This passive-aggressive behavior just piles on to a productivity problem.

Or the employee with access to sensitive information –such as employee salaries – who not only blabs it but uses it to create department drama.

Why aren’t these people told their behavior is unacceptable? Why doesn’t someone in charge put a stop to it? The ramifications of doing nothing are far worse than taking a stand.

  • The statistics clearly indicate that employee engagement suffers.
  • Productivity takes a hit because unhappy people seek out others with whom they can commiserate. Time spent talking about the problem person is time that could be spent getting real work done.
  • The unprofessional and mean-spirited behavior of one person destroyed an entire company.

Poor behavior is allowed to continue for one reason.  Fear.

Fear of having an uncomfortable (or worse) conversation. Fear of alienating someone who, other than being a bully, may do necessary work. Fear of addressing it and then losing face if the behavior doesn’t change.  Fear that the bully may retaliate and behave even worse toward co-workers.

The fear has to be faced and overcome. Sometimes people in charge have to do difficult jobs and this is one of those times.

It needn’t be a nasty conversation. (I wouldn’t suggest calling the person a jerk.  That was to get your attention.) Approach calmly. Give examples. State the effect the behavior is having on the workplace. Ask that it be stopped. Share a clear picture of what behavior is expected. Some negative behaviors become habit, so a coach may be engaged to help guide and support the change process. Change may happen overnight but sustained change takes time and practice.

(In some cases this problem won’t be news to the bully.  They just know they’ve gotten away with it for a long time and may even pride themselves on being so threatening that no one has dared to confront them.)

Having this conversation not only benefits co-workers and the organization, it’s also doing good for the problem employee.  These behaviors probably spill over into their personal lives where it’s certain they’re not being received any more cheerfully.

If you have someone in your organization who needs to be (kindly) confronted, use this post as a conversation starter with the person who’s in a position to handle the problem.  Calvins, from Calvin & Hobbes once said,  “I love mankind, it’s people I can’t stand!”  That’s funny in a cartoon but deadly in the office.

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