Canadian Lawyer

November 2021

The most widely read magazine for Canadian lawyers

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38 www.canadianlawyermag.com FEATURE MANAGEMENT Poor employee behaviours can have a negative impact on businesses. Zoë Routh explains what triggers these behaviours and how to avoid them Why good staff can behave badly Loss of power In his book Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, Dan Pink lists three factors that make work engaging: autonomy, purpose and mastery. When someone makes a decision that affects us, and we had no involvement in the process, this can prompt a defensive reac- tion. Our autonomy is compromised. We can become argumentative, critical and negative. Leaders need to be mindful and explicit in making and communicating decisions. Being as inclusive and consultative as possible can help decrease employees' sense of powerless- ness. Transparency in decision-making can reduce criticism, even if the decision itself is difficult. Loss of position Humans are social creatures. Over the millennia of our existence, we've formed collaborative societies in which individuals have specific responsibilities. Many of these are hierarchical communities that reward responsibility with status and privilege. In workplaces, these symbols include job titles, parking spaces, office size, and deference to one's expertise and experience. A threat to our position in the group, whether perceived or real, activates a primal emotional response. Ever been in a meeting where your expertise was dismissed or glossed over? The rise of red-faced anger is often the result. Emotional ranting can follow, as can vengeful backbiting and resentment. How we recognise and appreciate individ- uals and teams is critical to avoiding sensitive responses. When we reassure others that they are valued and appreciated, it helps keep tempers even. Leaders need to be mindful of status symbols and what is prized by individ- uals. Not everyone values a parking space, but it's treasured by those who do. Loss of performance As Pink explains, being able to master a skill or role is critical to our sense of job satisfaction. Too many commitments can threaten our POOR EMPLOYEE behaviour has a huge cost to a business. Behaviours deemed 'toxic' include ostracism, incivility, harassment and bullying. These can lead to workplace burnout, a condition officially identified in 2019 by the World Health Organization as an "occupational phenomenon." Workplaces are causing employees harm, and the problem is pervasive. The effect of this extends to organisational results. As one of the toxic behaviours, 'incivility' includes insults, rudeness and teasing. In a poll of 800 managers and employees in 17 industries, the impact of incivility resulted in the following (Porath and Person, 2013): • 48% intentionally decreased their work effort • 47% intentionally decreased the time spent at work • 38% intentionally decreased the quality of their work • 80% lost work time worrying about the incident • 63% lost work time avoiding the offender • 66% said their performance had declined • 78% said their commitment to the organisation had declined • 12% said they had left their job because of the uncivil treatment • 25% admitted to taking their frustration out on customers Additional poor behaviours range from turf wars and silos to emotional ranting, backbiting and white-anting. The intent is not always malicious. Poor behaviour sometimes occurs due to thoughtlessness or a lack of self-awareness. What causes good humans to behave badly? There are four key triggers that ac tivate problematic behaviour. T he overarching theme is fear of loss. Our primal animal response is wired to avoid deprivation: we experience it as a survival threat. Just watch a toddler act up when you take away a toy they had been ignoring all morning. The object suddenly becomes the most coveted item in the room. We don't want to lose anything, no matter how inconsequential.

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