Few managers would claim to enjoy confrontation—but avoiding it is a recipe for trouble. Ignoring bad behavior may be the “easy” solution, but when you enable it to continue, it’s only going to escalate and eventually reach a tipping point. By then, you’ll have an even more difficult time fixing the problem.
Act Now to Prevent a Bigger Problem Down the Road
Bad behavior at work takes many forms. Tardiness, frequent breaks and bullying are some of the more common problematic behaviors in the workplace. Little things like tacking on an extra 5 or 10 minutes to a lunch break are often overlooked for fear of micromanaging, but when an employee realizes he or she can get away with it without any fear of recrimination, the problem is going to continue…and before long, five minutes could turn into 15. Then, when management is forced to confront the problem, morale suffers—on everybody’s part.
There are plenty of excuses for not taking action. Skittish supervisors tell themselves things like “the problem will resolve itself naturally” or “confrontation would do more harm than good” or “we have bigger problems to worry about,” but they are only fooling themselves. Signs that you are enabling bad behavior include:
- You find yourself working around a problem
- You deny or downplay a well-known issue
- Employees accuse you of playing favorites
- You have discussions on how to handle an employee who is flaunting the rules
- You are afraid of retaliation if you enforce the rules
- Cliques develop around certain individuals
- Bullying is occurring
Acting sooner rather than later takes courage, but it’s a necessary step. Otherwise, you are enabling bad behavior, and making it much harder to address in the future. Good managers realize that nipping a problem in the bud early on—ideally, the very first time it occurs—is the best way to prevent it from recurring in the future. Just as important is enforcing the rules consistently across the board, with no exception. And it goes without saying that you should follow them strictly, as well!
To avoid enabling, meet with the problem employee individually and follow up by addressing all employees to send the message that enabling poor behavior will stop. Be sure to review policies to reduce the potential for misunderstandings, and encourage questions in order to clarify procedures. Taking action will help you regain control of your team and win you the respect of your employees.