Team Management

How to Manage Harmful Employee Behaviors

It’s one of those unpleasant facts of business life: No matter how effective a manager you are, it’s inevitable that one or more of your employees will display problematic behaviors now and then. A top performer starts exhibiting less-than-stellar performance. A previously reliable employee is increasingly absent from work. A direct report arrives chronically late to important meetings. Today, we have curated four types of harmful employee behaviors and how to manage them as you move into management jobs.

How to deal with questionable employee behavior

Left unaddressed, these and other behaviors can hamstring your team’s productivity as well as sap morale. How to combat problem behavior? What is the way of restoring order and drawing a clear line between acceptable and unacceptable behavior in your team? Apart from these serious concerns, knowing how to handle such potential situations is also critical in you finding a new job through a headhunter.

In an ideal world, successful organizations run smoothly and efficiently with everyone working effectively as a team and treating each other with mutual respect. Staff morale, productivity and customer service would function at a high level. In reality, companies struggle with morale, put processes in place to keep productivity high, and constantly deal with employees and relationships.

The responsibility to maintain a positive office environment is the responsibility of the managers who not only get paid for what they do, but for how well their team does. Good managers recognize this and should do what they can to help their employees succeed.

However, this comes with its share of challenges in the form of employees’ problematic behaviors. So the question before the manager is “How to address these issues to ensure that the problem behavior is eliminated, without eliminating the employee?

4 Harmful Employee Behaviors and how to manage them

The four typical problematic behaviors are absenteeism, insubordination, negativity, and procrastination.


Excessive absenteeism is a symptom of a problem, the employee’s refusal to hold himself accountable to report to work regularly. It creates problems with group morale, team productivity, and delivery deadlines. Dealing swiftly and effectively with habitually late or absent employees is the key to avoiding further transgressions and to correcting any negative consequences this conduct produces

Action: Identify the causes for the employee’s absenteeism. Inform the employee of the detected pattern and ask for reasoning. Explain the critical nature of the situation, ask what he would do if he were you and then ask for a verbal commitment that the problem will be minimized. If the behavior persists, issue written warnings according to the policy. Warn of consequences if they continue to miss work.


Do you have a team member who says yes to projects but fails to follow through? Procrastinators are staff members who love to do everything at the last minute and constantly wait to do anything until it’s absolutely necessary. Most people procrastinate have several reasons why they do so, especially if it is a job they do not want to do or a decision they are reluctant to make.

Action: You need to discover the reason for the procrastination. Talk with the employee about the reason for the problem, then give them direction for completion or make necessary changes in the task assignment. What are some positive directions or changes management can make to help bring the task to completion?

Set deadlines and establish clear firm consequences for failure to deliver work. Establish benchmarks to validate everything along the way so that you remain on schedule.


Insubordination occurs when an employee willfully disobeys or disregards a superior’s legitimate directive. Abusive language by employees, not responding to or disobeying work requests, violate company standards of performance and conduct, disrespectful behavior toward supervisors and others can also be considered insubordination.

Insubordination in the workplace is dangerous for the entire team because it undermines the authority of the manager and has the potential to cause productivity problems.

Action: Any discussion with an insubordinate employee must always be documented. Your responsibility is to assess whether it is insubordination or miscommunication. Also, figure out if this was a one-off incident or is it repeated behavior.

Then, Have a conversation with the employee explaining why his behavior was inappropriate. Be specific and note if his behavior is part of a pattern. Then give your employee a chance to explain himself and his Actions. Ask for feedback and ideas on ways you can interact better, but reiterate that his inappropriate behavior will not be tolerated


Dealing with persistently negative employees who don’t make big mistakes or openly violate organizational policy is tougher for many supervisors.

Negative employees are those people who erode team morale by spreading gossip and pitting people against each other. You can find them constantly complaining and stirring up discontent. They are resistant to any new initiative or organizational change. In organizations, they increased friction, decrease in collaboration and creativity, lower morale and reduced productivity.

Action: Assess and analyze the situation by observing patterns and repeat behaviors. Check if other team members are being stressed or having low productivity. Have a direct conversation with the employee on observed behavior and ask for reasons for the same.

Listen to the employee’s issues and concerns so he/she feels heard. Inform the employee about the negative impact her negativity is having on coworkers using specific examples. Focus on the behavior you want to be changed not on the person. It might be also rewarding to have team building workshops or soft-skills training for such people. If all else fails and the negative employee ignores your warnings and refuses to cooperate, it is time to pursue official Action.

Hopefully, all future and existing managers are taking note and improving their chances of career success with these tips! Do share if you had a different experience.

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