What to Do About Disruptive Employees

Even if you thoroughly vet new hires before you bring them into the fold, it is likely that one or two “bad seeds” will manage to slip through the cracks. Disruptive employees can cause major distractions, slow down productivity and ultimately affect the bottom line. Here are several practical suggestions for handling the situation:

  • Develop a company-wide policy on workplace behavior before any incidents occur. Spell out which types of disruptive behaviors will not be tolerated. This might include acts such as hostility, bullying, shouting, intimidation, accusations or just an overall negative attitude.  Distribute the policy to all employees in writing. Request their signatures to ensure that your employees understand the rules and consequences of their behavior.
  • Identify those employees who have been disruptive in the past. But do not focus on occasional outbursts or otherwise innocent comments that are made casually at the water cooler or in the lunchroom. Remember that almost everyone has a bad day now and then. Problematic employees usually demonstrate a habitual pattern of disruptive behavior that interferes with the job on a regular basis. Be careful to single out only the worst offenders.
  • Hold one-on-one meetings with these disruptive employees. (Do not be surprised if an employee is taken aback when you request a get-together for this purpose.) Try to keep the chat informal, but address the critical issues head-on. Inform the worker that his or her behavior is affecting the workplace. Find out if there are any valid reasons for the disruptions. If a legitimate problem is presented, investigate the matter promptly and, when warranted, take appropriate action. Again, refer to the company manual for guidance.
  • Monitor employees’ progress. If you have talked with an employee about disruptive behavior and have agreed on a solution, you must provide him or her with enough time and opportunity to make good on the adjustments. Keep a close watch on new developments. Note in your files if an employee shows signs of improvement or recurring insubordination.
  • Institute formal disciplinary proceedings if disruptive behavior continues. Do not allow these actions to slow down productivity or lower company morale. Follow the procedures outlined in your company policy. This may reflect a system that establishes verbal warnings, written warnings and, finally, suspensions or termination.

All too often, business managers allow problems to persist without confronting employees. Before you know it, the entire workplace is affected. It is usually better to be proactive than reactive. Although it may raise some sensitive issues in the short term, your business is not as likely to suffer over the long run.