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«Employees Misbehaviour: Formes, Causes and What Management Should do to Handle With Edit LUKÁCS „Dunărea de Jos” University of Galaţi ...»

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The Annals of “Dunarea de Jos” University of Galati

Fascicle I – 2009. Economics and Applied Informatics. Years XV – no 2 - ISSN 1584-0409

Employees Misbehaviour: Formes, Causes and

What Management Should do to Handle With


„Dunărea de Jos” University of Galaţi



Ovidius University Constanta



„Dunărea de Jos” University of Galaţi


In many organizations there are employees who sabotage processes, steal company property, harass others, cheat the management or mislead customers.

These misbehaviours of the employees are pervasive and costly. In the same time, they are warning that employees` needs are not met. Sometimes managers avoid to facing the unacceptable behaviours of the employee due to certain psychological reasons. The approach of problem-employees is a challenge for the managers. While most of them may be tempted to dismiss these employees researches have indicated that the best alternative is to learn how to behave with that person.

Key-words: employee misbehaviour, violence at the workplace, substance abuse, workplace dishonesty, causes of misbehaviours, problem-employees.

JEL code: M51

1. Introduction Organizational misbehaviour is defined as “any intentional action by members of organizations that violates core organizational and/or societal norms (1).Inappropriate or illegal employee conduct can create a wealth of problems for any employer. It can result in a decrease of productivity, damage to the organization business or reputation, injuries to employees and customers, and exposure to costly legal liability. Employee misbehaviour can take many different forms-from substance abuse that can create workplace hazards, to workplace violence that threatens individual safety, to improper e-mail and internet usage that can result in exposure to lawsuits and security violations. Now more than ever before, employers need to be vigilant and knowledgeable as to the warning signs of inappropriate or illegal conduct, the preventive measures to take, and what to do when employees engage in behaviour that is likely to put the company or others at risk(2). In this paper we present some forms of inappropriate behaviour of the employees, the causes that determine these and how managers should handle with them.

2. Forms of misbehaviour

2.1. Violence in the workplace No employer wants to think that there is a potential for violence in its work-place, but workplace violence is a disturbing fact of life.

–  –  –

According to the results of a survey made by the European Agency for Safety and Health at Work (EU-OSHA), 9% of the employees from EU, respectively 12 million persons, declared that they were subject to moral harassment at the workplace in year 2000 (3). Also, another research of the same institution (EU-OSHA), points out that 4% of the active population from Europe were victims of physical violence on the part of persons out of the workplace, like customers. Most of the workplaces with a high risk of violent work-environment belong to the service sector, especially to public health institutions, education, finance, catering, transportation, retail trade. Contact with customers increase the risk of violence (4).

Not all incidents of employee violence can be predicted or prevented, but companies today are expected to take reasonable measures to keep informed of potential threats to the health and

safety of employees and customers. Some of the warning signs of workplace violence are:

explicit threats and verbal abuse; inappropriate displays of anger, such as screaming and slamming doors; continually disgruntled attitude; paranoid behaviour; exhibition of wide mood swings, or other erratic behaviour.

2.2. Inappropriate e-mail and Internet usage

E-mail is a powerful communication tool that lets individuals transmit information both within and outside of the organization inexpensively and with lightning speed. However, an inadequate usage of e-mail and the Internet by the employee can be a serious problem for an employer. E-mail transmissions are considered “documents” and can be used against an employer in a lawsuit in the same way as any written letter. In recent court cases in U.S.A., employee e-mail messages have been presented as evidence in claim of discrimination, sexual harassment, and other illegal activities. Similar issues arise with general computer use.

Employees commonly create and store personal documents on employer-supplied hardware.

Furthermore, excessive non-business-related Web surfing can impede business productivity.

Managers should develop and communicate a policy regarding online issues, which should apply to all employees with access to these tools. (5).

2.3. Substance abuse in the workplace

The issue of substance abuse in the workplace is an unpleasant one to face. It is estimated that approximately 65 percent of on-the-job accidents are attributable to drug and alcohol use. A great deal of work has been conducted on the effects of alcohol on judgement and on the performance of skilled work. In general the experimental work has shown that alcohol has a deleterious effect on performance because of its effect on vision, perceptual motor functions, judgement, reasoning and memory (6). Many of the studies in this area have concerned driving tasks. For example, Bjever and Goldberg (7) used a special truck designed to measure the drivers` ability to operate a car within close limits. Such manoeuvres as parallel parking, driving out of a garage, and turning around in a narrow roadway were required. Their results showed that the time taken by skilled drivers to perform test correctly was significantly lengthened when the subjects were at a blood-alcohol level of about 40mg/100 ml of blood.

For this reason, it is important that all employers understand the consequences of substance abuse in the workplace and take proper steps to prevent and eliminate the problem.

2.4. Accidents as Withdrawal Behaviour

In 1950 Hill and Trist advanced the theory that people may be motivated to have an accident so that they can take time off work. Their withdrawal hypothesis was supported by comparing the uncertified absence rates of 200 men who had remained free from accidents with those of 89 men who had sustained one or more accidents. Their results indicated that those sustaining 316 The Annals of “Dunarea de Jos” University of Galati Fascicle I – 2009. Economics and Applied Informatics. Years XV – no 2 - ISSN 1584-0409 accidents had had significantly more other absences than those who had remained free of accidents. Unfortunately, since the authors only reported the number of accidents, it is not possible to determine whether the people who had high accident rates had more accidents or merely reported more. Only the former would directly tend to support the theory. There is very little evidence to support the hypothesis that workers either consciously or unconsciously cause an accident in order to escape from work.

2.5. Other workplace dishonesty

A company can experiences other acts of employee dishonesty, such as theft of company property or the property of other employees, or fraud. In order to root out or prevent such incidents, managers may use some techniques - such as search of employee property, or employees themselves, video surveillance and telephone monitoring. However, managers should take into account whether the actions they want to take are reasonable for proper business purposes and if these actions come against the privacy expectations of the employees.

In businesses where there is a high incidence of employee theft, such as retail or manufacturing industries, random searches are common. For other types of businesses, random searches may create more problems than they solve, especially in the areas of employee morale and productivity. For this reason, it is best for the companies in lower risk businesses to limit searches to situations where there is probable reason to believe that they will find what they want.

3. Causes of employees misbehaviours

Misbehaviours in the workplace not only deplete an organization`s energy, but they are also a warning that employees` needs are not met. That is the premise behind the five key drivers of misbehaviours released by Juice Inc., a HR consulting firm that helps companies boost their organizational energy and employee engagement.

The five leading drivers of employee misbehaviours are:

1. Bad fits- When employees are not doing things they are good at, it creates inner friction and a feeling of incompetence and lack of focus, poor performance and mistakes follow.

2. Unclear about their role- When employees are not clear on what is expected of them, and they are unsure about how they serve the company, it can create feelings of confusion, insecurity and mistrust. They begin to question whether they are succeeding or failing in their role; as a result, they become critical of management initiatives and demonstrate poor commitment.

3. Lack of support- This includes physical tools and emotional support. When people do not have the time, tools, resources they need to succeed, it can leave them feeling overwhelmed, taken-for-grant and resentful. They respond by bad-mouthing the organization, complaining, and showing an overall poor attitude.

4. Not being valued- Employees look for a “thank you” to feel appreciated for their work, but they do not always get it. The resulting misbehaviour includes lack of trust and loyalty, low engagement, miscommunication and a toxic culture.

5. Lack of inspiration- Individuals can not sustain their energy when they feel their leaders are hypocrite and their job has no real purpose beyond making money for someone else. When people do not feel like they are living up to their potential and being held accountable to results, apathy and cynicism set in (8).

–  –  –

4. Why managers avoid deal with unacceptable employee behaviour?

There are numerous psychological reasons why mangers fail to address poor performers, the co-workers` resentment and the team dysfunction.

In an article on the webpage of the firm WorkRelationships, dr.

Joni Johnston emphasizes five of the most common reasons why managers avoid to face unacceptable employee behaviour (9):

1. The manger feels dependent upon the employee. Sometimes, a poorly performing employee has some special talent or connection that makes them seem indispensable. Many managers continue to put time, money and energy into marginal staff members because they fear they will not be able to find more competent ones. Poor performers never justify their costs. To avoid this trap, recruiters should develop and maintain ongoing relationships with top recruiting sources.

2. The manager confuses discipline with punishment. Managers do not want to be put in the role of punitive parent or heavy- handed school principal, verbally rapping their misbehaving employees on the knuckles. Managers who have this attitude generally do not have the necessary performance management skills to apply positive and corrective discipline.

3. The manager feels sorry for the employee. Perhaps the manager knows about a tough family situation or a recent divorce and do not want to pile one problem on the top of another.

Mangers can help to avoid this trap by having a conversation of how well she/he is doing.

Most people who can give an accurate assessment of their own work performance can identify areas needing improvement.

4.The manager has never told top management about the problem and/or convinced them of how serious it is. Sometimes, the manager can not handle the problem alone. He/she needs to involve the Human Resource Department in the review of the criteria by which the employee with an unacceptable performance is appraised.

5. The manager feels responsible for the employee`s poor performance. For some managers, admitting that an employee has not met expectations signals some kind of failure for the manager. Often, managers blame themselves for a staff members` failure, and are willing to do almost anything to insure the employees` success.

5. Approaching problem-employees

The difficult demeanours of some persons or of the so-called problem-employees are easily recognisable in companies due to the emotional reactions they develop. According to experts from the point of view of the antisocial demeanour really difficult people are rare, in return anyone can have a difficult demeanour at one time (10).

Generally speaking the difficult demeanours of some of the employees can consist of objective causes such as assignment of tasks which exceed their abilities or, on the contrary, of too few tasks, lack of variety of work, setting vague objectives for the employee, unexpected working hours, uncertainty of the job or constant and continuous pressure (11). The difficult demeanour is often direct consequence of stress and exhaustion.

There are also times when difficult demeanour is based on personality features such as hypersensitivity, negative thinking, low self - respect or aggression.

–  –  –

Regardless of what the causes of difficult demeanour are, the approach of problem-employees is a challenge for the managers. While most of them may be tempted to dismiss these employees researches have indicated that the best alternative is to learn how to behave with that person. Dismissal is not always a solution as recruiting and training new persons is expensive (12). On the other hand the presence in a work group of an aggressive, arrogant, insubordinate, finical, hypersensitive and unproductive employee is difficult to bear. It is even worse when he has alcohol problems.

In organizations various types of problem-employees are to be met and they are often named with humour: „little genius”, „pathologic blabber”, „chronic complainant”, „the informer”, „the absent-minded”, „the bad-tempered” and so on.

The choice of the right demeanour for the approach of the employee will be made according to the type of demeanour.

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