When an employee is rude and unpleasant to a coworker, who should confront it–the coworker or the manager?
The answer to that question can be found through a few other questions:
1. Does the coworker lack the authority to require different behavior? If he or she can’t require courtesy, it may ultimately be up to the manager to require it.
2. Has this employee acted discourteously often before? If so, having a coworker confront the behavior probably won’t make a difference.
3. Is there a chance the rude employee might do similar things to other coworkers at another time? If so, the manager certainly should want to stop it.
4. Might the behavior affect the willingness of others to want to work with that employee or ask for assistance in the future? The workplace is the supervisor or manager’s responsibility.
5. If the employee used a similar tone or acted in a similar way with clients, would that be a problem? If it would be, the manager or supervisor should be very concerned about that potential.
If the answer to any of those is “Yes”, the manager should investigate. If the behavior was inappropriate the employee should be told so, why it was inappropriate, and what should have happened instead. Then, the manager should ask for a commitment from the employee to act differently in the future. There probably is a need for longer-term observation and development about effective behavior.
You or someone you know? You may know supervisors who push coworker disputes back onto the complaining employee. They probably justify their actions by saying that employees need to learn to deal with their own conflicts.
The problem with that approach is, some employees do not have the confidence or skill to deal with personal conflicts effectively. So, while one employee may stand up and stop the rude behavior, others are distracted and upset and avoid working around the rude person. Even employees who are willing to confront the behavior may do so by responding in a similar manner, which makes things miserable for everyone–and doesn’t keep the behavior from happening again.
Think about this as well: If an employee can’t be trusted to be consistently courteous and helpful to team members, how can they be trusted to be courteous and helpful to those outside your team?
Fulfill your role as a supervisor, manager and leader: If you become aware of rude, discourteous, unpleasant, insensitive, or inappropriate behavior in your workplace, use it as a chance to develop people and the team. Talk to the employee who acted unpleasantly and find out what was behind the behavior. Make sure the employee knows it can’t happen again and knows what he or she should do instead. Then, bring the team back together by keeping them focused on work and by commending the good work that is being done.
You will find much less bickering and upset when everyone knows you expect people to behave courteously, professionally and in a way that encourages cooperation and effectiveness–and that you will deal with it immediately if you become aware of a problem.
A bonus question to add to the five above:
6. Who is ultimately responsible for the effectiveness and well-being of the workplace–employees or the manager? You know the answer to that one!