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It’s hard to put a finger on whether or not some of the more aberrant patterns of employee misconduct can be attributed (1) not knowing any better, (2) not caring, (3) a sense of entitlement, (4) stupidity or (5) All of the above. What is clear is that the documented increase in behavioral disruptions are no longer isolated to a particular industry and are indicative of a disconnect between inappropriate actions and appropriate consequences.
Perhaps in our rush to digitize, globalize and maximize the work environment, we neglected the little things that go a long way to maintaining consistency and order.
A back to basics approach may be what is necessary to “nip bad behavior in the bud” or “grease the skids” for an early separation. Specific disruptions include:

Chronic Tardiness: The issue suggests that an employee has a problem being at work at the prescribed designated starting time. If the designated starting time was clearly articulated at the point of hiring, then for the new employee, there is very little room to negotiate, so the manager has only to mention it once, document the next occurrence, and on the third occasion, consult with HR to begin the separation process. The senior employee with a number of years in the organization may feel a sense of entitlement around tardiness, but the separation process is about the same.

Chronic absenteeism: When an employee is deliberately, willfully and intentionally absent from work, it suggests that they don’t want to be there or that there are external issues more compelling than attending work. In any event, given the amount of ‘earned vacation time’, ‘personal days’, ‘earned sick days’, ‘FMLA’, ‘annual holidays’, ‘personal holidays’, and ‘weekends’, there aren’t very many days left to actually go to work. It’s important for managers to remind the chronically absent employee how their lack of attendance affects productivity in other areas. More importantly, if an employee doesn’t want to be there, then help them come to grips with that reality and seek other alternative forms of employment.

Chronic Monday and Friday sickness: Employees suffering from this form of illness also suffer with the delusion that no one notices the Monday and Friday pattern. Most full time organizations approach the work week as a five or six day event, so the idea of a full time employee rarely appearing on Monday or Friday goes against the norm. Remind this employee that there are numerous organizations that actively promote a part-time, three or four day work week and will be happy to accommodate this particular chronic illness.

Chronic 30 minute cigarette breaks every hour: Little did we know that by driving the cigarette smoke outside, a culture of cigarette breaks would emerge that superseded the traditional10 to 20 minute mid-morning and mid-afternoon break. Although there are a number of organizations that offer programs to help cigarette smokers manage their smoking habit, the abused cigarette break is still a disruptive influence in the work place.
Cigarette smokers are already feeling picked on because of their habit, but who knew that, for some, the habit would lead to a work day of about 4 or 5 hours. Address the behavior from a productivity standpoint and not as a personal attack.

Insubordination: Refusal of a work directive, in most organizations, is seen as grounds for dismissal. However, the process for dismissal can be a chronically long nightmare where the end result is a re-emergence at the same starting point. There may be policies in place, but they carry no weight if not used appropriately. When confronted with insubordinate behavior, simply ask, “Are you being insubordinate?” If the answer is ‘no’ then the employee is aware of the consequences. If the answer is ‘yes’ then the employee is aware of the consequences and doesn’t care.

The power to address these and other disruptive behaviors starts with the managerial recognition that a job is a privilege, not a right, work is a means to an end, not an end itself and that, personality aside, all behavior is performance based. When dealing with chronic patterns, the point is to make the confrontation performance driven and not personal. Employees only do what we allow.

© 2013 Lee E. Meadows
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