Tina Lewis Rowe

Insights, Information & Inspiration

How Long Are You Going To Put Up With That Behavior?

This kind of behavior is only interesting from a lizard--not an employee. There are many workplaces where employees, supervisors and managers devote 50% of their time to work and 50% to dealing with the obnoxious, frustrating, divisive or weird behavior of one or two employees. If you are in an office like that, how long are you going to put up with that situation?

If you are a peer: Let the coworker know, in an appropriate way, when you are frustrated, angry or concerned about the behavior. Then, as with a bad-acting child, withdraw your support until the behavior improves. That doesn’t mean ostracism from work, but it does mean not pretending to support or be friends with someone who treats others badly, just to avoid being a victim yourself. Be civil, be courteous but don’t be a tolerant pal.

If the behavior is having an effect on your work and you have tried to handle it directly–and in a courteous effective way–document the behavior, witnesses if any, and the effect it had on you and the workplace, and submit it in writing. If nothing is done at least you are no worse off–and there will be documentation.  You should talk directly to your manager as well. But, if you don’t put it in writing, it often is seen as merely griping, not requesting action. 

If you are a manager or supervisor: Although I advise the coworkers of rude or difficult employees to put their complaints in writing,  they shouldn’t have to do that if you are an observant and concerned manager or supervisor. When you  know there is a problem, it’s up to you to do intervene without being pushed into it.

Stop bad behavior when it first starts–not after it’s habitual. If it’s already gone to that point, talk to HR or others who can help you ensure you are approaching it correctly. Then, talk to the employee directly about what you have observed and the reasons it should stop and change. Be able to say what behavior and performance you want to have stay the same, what the employee should do more of and what the employee should never do again. Don’t weasle about that–be direct and adamant.

There are a variety of ways to intervene, to correct and redirect and to restore the employee back to the team, but they all start with stepping up and stopping the bad behavior.

How long are you going to put up with it?

June 30th, 2009 Posted by | Challenging and Problematic People, Personal and Professional Development, Supervision and Management | 7 comments


  1. Thank you! Thank you! Now, if only my boss will read this and believe it applies to him!

    Comment by Oky210 | June 30, 2009

  2. I wanted to say how glad I am that I talked to you a year ago and got up the courage to deal with a problem employee who was creating bad feelings with everyone. Our office is so much better now. It’s unbelievable what a difference it made to finally stop what was happening. And, I like myself better! 🙂

    Comment by P.A.H. | June 30, 2009

  3. Hmmmmmm. That photo looks like the woman I used to work with. She was one mean woman! First boss tolerated it. Second boss said that nothing could be done. Third boss sent her to training, counseled her, changed her work, and did everything he could to save her job for her. Fourth boss put her on a two month PIP which she grieved and lost. Now she’s gone. And it only took six years.

    Comment by Wiseacre | July 1, 2009

  4. I’m glad you mentioned about peer behavior. This isn’t all up to managers. Adults have to learn to set boundaries and civilly insist upon those boundaries being respected. Thanks for your insights. Dan

    Comment by Dan T. | July 1, 2009

  5. Tina, you hit the nail on the head in class, on this topic. The problem is that everyone wants to make excuses for people who act like jerks at work. That’s why we have two guys on my shift who disrupt every roll call, make fun of people and make remarks over the radio, but nothing gets done because “they do good work otherwise.” I agreed 100% with what you said, that good work is the whole package, not just part of it. That’s my rant for the day.

    Comment by S. G. | July 1, 2009

  6. Good thoughts. I think it’s up to the supervisors though. I agree that coworkers should speak up but they shouldn’t have to be the ones to do the jobs supervisors are paid to do, which is deal with problem people.

    Comment by Mike | July 3, 2009

  7. Tina says: Thank you to all of you who commented–including those by email. There is a lot of frustration about people who seemingly are allowed to behave badly without any repercussions.

    I heard from one person who was once complained about and she said she sincerely had not realized the effect of her actions. She was helped by having her supervisor talk to her in a way that emphasized how much more pleasant her own life would be if she was more concerned about the feelings of others. (To that person–thank you for sharing your story with me!)

    Comment by TLR | July 5, 2009

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