6 Ways to Deal With a Disrespectful Employee

Do you know how to deal with a coworker or, worse yet, an employee who is disrespectful to you? This would be an employee who feels they can:

  • yell
  • withhold needed information
  • make ‘snarky’ comments
  • refuse to acknowledge you

The workplace today is stress-filled, as workers are dealing with more tasks which are leading to longer hours. It’s also filled with very differing personalities, each with their own perceptions, expectations, and way of working. Putting some of these differing personalities together can be a recipe for disaster.

But does this give someone the right to intrude on others, either in their actions or words? If we entertain that the disrespectful employee is dealing with a personal problem, perhaps an ill family member or having financial difficulties,  it could lead to such behavior. After all, each of us deals with our stressors differently.

However, this does not justify such bad behavior. So how do you deal with an employee who exhibits one of the behaviors listed earlier? Here are some tips for doing so:

  • Document the behavior: remember the rule “if it wasn’t written, it didn’t happen,” so keep a record of the situations as they occur, including:  the day/date, time of day, place occurred, the issue involved, and who else was an observer. Look at the situation from an outsider’s perspective to ‘see’ the bigger picture; we won’t see it when we’re thinking off emotion.
  • Communication is the best route, but when you (as the boss) are calmer; have the employee come to your office to discuss the events as they occurred and to hear their side of the story, asking what led to their adverse behavior (not why), which can uncover the basis for it.
  • Set rules and boundaries: reiterating and reinforcing workplace expectations and policies for insubordination will put the worker on notice, so to speak, so it is mutually understood that there will be repercussions if the adverse behavior occurs again.  Give the employee clear expectations for how they will make improvements, but include them in this plan and, then, have them sign it.
  • Find out what the employee needs to improve in their work to see if you can provide them; for example, if the employee has an ill family member at home then can you allow a staggered shift which would allow help to take over; can the employee take a break if they are feeling at the breaking point. You may not be able to accommodate them but trying goes a long way to feeling cared about.
  • You can refer the employee to seek formal counseling, through the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) your organization contracts with; this can be either formally or informally, meaning that you can recommend them to go or make it mandatory. Both have differing workings as well as expected outcomes. The other option is to put them on formal Performance Improvement Plan (PIP), with formal steps that goes through your Human Resources (HR) department.
  • Be emotionally intelligent (EI)  – you don’t have to respond how the employee might be drawing you in to; you also need to check your own behavior and attitude towards that employee as you may be treating him or her differently or coming across defensive.

Dealing with workplace behaviors is never easy but it needs to be done; remembering that emotions come into play when adverse behaviors occur will go a long way to curbing them, but it also includes being empathetic and setting good boundaries. After all, other employees are being affected in some way, as well so stopping this type of behavior should never be tolerated, and it ends with you.

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