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Performance Management

4 bad behaviors that fly under the radar — but need to be addressed



Most managers will spot – and stop – bad behaviors in their tracks. But some bullies and their subtle behaviors hide.

From loud, obnoxious bullies to blatant water-cooler-leaning slackers, managers usually don’t let them poison the workplace.

But, not all bad behaviors stand out like that. Many are subtle and difficult to spot, but can become just as destructive.

Many victims of bad behaviors

Nearly 90% of workers say they’ve been bullied at work, a Monster study found. Here’s how it breaks down: About 50% say their boss is the bully; about 40% were bullied by co-workers; and about 5% said it’s a client or customer.

No matter who treats others badly, some of it is done purposely subtle so others can’t see it.

That’s why it’s important for managers to recognize behaviors that hurt morale and productivity, but are harder to see as bullying on the surface. Leaders even want to be on the lookout for their colleagues who might treat others with subtle disrespect.

Here are five behaviors to watch for and some action steps to take if you witness them:

Sideways criticism

It’s a manager’s job to dole out constructive criticism when necessary. It’s very seldom that employees should criticize their co-workers. Because they know that, or aren’t skilled enough to give constructive criticism, some employees will sprinkle others with sideways criticism.

For instance, in a team meeting you might hear one employee pick apart another’s ideas by only highlighting things that won’t work. Or they might roll their eyes when others talk.

It’s subtle behavior when the boss is near, but probably outright criticism when the boss is not around.

To stop a critic: Call the critic to the mat, requesting suggestions on what will work.

Hiding in the open

Leaders know a slacker when they manage them: They refuse extra work, put in the least effort, do the bare minimum and upset co-workers.

Subtle slackers can suck life out of an organization without much notice. They’ll volunteer to do more … only after they’re sure the work is covered. They’ll stay late … but never get extra done. They’ll be part of the team … but won’t speak up or pitch in on anything that’s remotely difficult.

To stop a slacker: Regularly review workloads to be sure everyone shares responsibility.

Hating success

Managers and most employees like having successful people work around them because they challenge others to rise to the occasion.

But there are employees who secretly hate successful people. They’ll pull conversations away from others’ accomplishments or minimize successes by pointing to factors that may have contributed to the overall success. They’ll show pleasure in the misfortunes of successful people.

To stop a hater: Recognize and reward employees’ good behavior. Don’t focus on the hater’s words.

Stressing excessively

Small amounts of stress are normal in a workplace. But some people create unwarranted stress, and an over-the-top reaction erodes the work environment.

Watch for people who are always in a hurry, but never seem to get much done – or those who say, “I can’t do that. I have too much work to finish.” Self-created drama gets in everyone’s way of doing their work.

To stop a stressor: Ignore her drama as much as possible to avoid adding fuel to the fire.

Sabotaging on the sly

Sabotage is obvious when one employee does things to derail another’s work. Subtle sabotage comes in the form of apathy: A long-time employee shows no interest in others’ good work or concern for their efforts to get ahead. Watch for those who care little about others, but a lot about themselves.

To stop a saboteur: Give them as much independent work as possible, so they can’t bring down others.

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