Destructive Behavior in the Workplace

Don't let destructive behavior go unchecked.
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Employers have long wrestled with destructive behavior in the workplace that stifles productivity, exhausts morale and drains the company coffers. Organizations have limited control over some activities that can be detrimental to business, such as loud, irritable customers. In other circumstances, managers can jump out ahead of negative conduct before it seeps through an entire department. First steps typically involve recognizing telltale signs that something is amiss in the office and then figuring out how to deal with the problem.


    That impossible boss who humiliates and hollers at everyone may be turning her company culture into something that's toxic and counterproductive. Thirty-seven percent of U.S. workers report being targets of workplace bullying, according to the Workplace Bullying Institute. Common symptoms include stress headaches, irritability, depression and anxiety among targets who become petrified of making mistakes. This destructive behavior eventually leads to higher absenteeism and turnover rates, followed by costs of recruiting and training replacements. A victim of workplace bullying should document every instance of misconduct and present this to her human resources department for guidance.


    Dishonesty at work can range from pilfering office supplies to pocketing petty cash. Falsifying a time card is another example of theft, as is shoplifting company merchandise. CBS News reports that employee theft is a lot more prevalent than most employers believe, with many companies losing up to 5 percent of their annual revenue through fraud. Most organizations rely on internal and external audits as a system of checks and balances. Senior leaders must understand their business margins and then stay on top of those numbers. Any sudden decline in margins might signal that theft is taking place, CBS News suggests.


    Nearly 75 percent of people who use illegal drugs or engage in binge drinking also are employed somewhere, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse. Substance abuse becomes destructive at work when someone's impaired judgment leads to problems ranging from poor productivity to accidents involving company vehicles or equipment. In addition, the normal flow of business is impacted when a drug or alcohol abuser routinely calls in sick or shows up late. Human resources departments should routinely screen workers for illegal substances during pre-employment processing and as part of random checks, according to the Coalition Against Drug Abuse. Mandatory testing not only prevents abusers from gaining employment, but existing employees who test positive can be directed toward counseling through an employee assistance program.

Bad Habits

    Destructive behavior does not always present itself in a single incident. Sometimes it starts small, through bad habits, and evolves into a much bigger problem over time. For example, an employee might voice minor irritation over work duties until her behavior escalates into frequent temper tantrums and snappishness. Another pattern that chews away at productivity is overuse of personal emails or social media on company time. An employee's best hedge against these behaviors is to develop a strong sense of self awareness and ask herself whether she's doing anything that takes value away from her employer, according to “Forbes.”

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