Just as in the adage, that one person's ceiling is another person's floor, the comparison of normal versus abnormal behavior can become a subjective argument. The elements that constitute normal vs. abnormal in any workplace depend on many factors: the industry, workplace culture and the social environment. Even with that said, abnormal behavior doesn't necessarily mean the behavior is bad or wrong -- just different.
Normal and Abnormal Behavior
Before you compare the differences between normal and abnormal behavior anywhere, you start by defining what constitutes normal behavior in your work environment. Because every workplace and the people that work there are different, no one single template applies in every situation. Bottom line, abnormal -- as it is defined -- deviates from the norm. In a workplace, the norm is the social standard for behavior by which most people adhere. Abnormal behavior seems strange, deviant or different, but it doesn't make it wrong, unless it adversely affects others.
Attitude Affects Behavior
When you want to make sense of work behavior, you start by examining a person's attitude. The way a person approaches work defines how she behaves. For example, when you enjoy going to work, have positive feelings about the work that you do -- and you receive encouragement and recognition for your work efforts -- your behavior follows suit. You're polite to people, generally happy and contribute to your coworkers and the social environment. Your positive energy spreads among your peers. That is until you run up against someone who isn't happy about his work, job, supervisor or coworkers. You might consider this person a stick-in-the-mud because his behavior seems abnormal to you and your peers.
Work Environment Differences
The work environment of one organization may not be the same as another. For example, police officers often find it socially acceptable and normal among themselves to let off steam by making weird jokes or cracks about criminals, accidents or disasters when in their private lunchrooms. Since the majority of the group's population finds this behavior okay, the gal that finds it rude or offensive might be the abnormal one. On the same note, that same behavior in an office setting or other business environment would be abnormal. Defining normal vs. abnormal behavior always starts with the context, the work environment and the group at large.
The work culture plays a significant role in how people behave at work. A company or organization's leaders set the tone for the work culture echoed by employees' behaviors and attitudes. Companies with positive outlooks, employee incentive programs and communication that works both ways typically outperform companies that do not. The normal behavior in such a culture would be one that embraces new ideas, welcomes input and ensures a safe working environment for all. On the other hand, companies that treat employees badly, don't have good internal communication lines or don't provide opportunities for employee advancement or growth, stimulate negative behaviors from their employees. What becomes the norm for any work environment usually starts at the top.
When Abnormal Behavior Crosses Lines
The larger group may consider a person who likes to keep to himself at work or doesn't join in social lunches abnormal, but that doesn't make him wrong. But a disrespectful or hurtful attitude that degenerates into abusive or discriminatory behavior toward others at work is. Bottom line, socially acceptable and normal human behavior generally consists of courtesy and at least respect for other people, regardless of whether or not you like them. At its worst, abnormal behavior disrespects diversity, and engages in taunts, slurs or epithets that are hurtful and mean. This kind of abnormal behavior is not only rude, it is against the law at work.
- Sage Publications: Defining Abnormal Behavior
- New Charter University: Perception, Attitude and Behavior
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- Police Magazine: Watch What You Post
- Academy of Knowledge Process: Influence of Organizational Culture on Employee Work Behavior
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