Employees (and friends) Behaving Badly!

We have all experienced those situations where negative habits of employees and friends seem to never die. We try to be patient or polite, until our head begins to throb and we feel an ultimate volcano that risks either a lost friendship or human resource issue. If I might dare to suggest, be free from that volcano before you explode (or implode).

Our busy activities do not offer much time to think on the fly, much less think about using a little psychology to get through our day. But, continued negative behavior can be a result of ‘What gets rewarded gets repeated’. One of my favorite clichés….because it’s true. In psych 101 it is called operative conditioning and is structured around negative and positive reinforcement. Rewards of course being a positive reinforcement. Behavior that continues can be modified by simply finding the reward that inspires it, and remove it.

Let’s look at the individual you are already thinking about as you read this article. What are they getting from those bad habits? Affirmation from peers? A sense of ‘being right all the time’? The support of ‘not being messed with’? Attention? Some intimidate others…because it works! Some whine and complain…because it works! Some criticize everyone…because it works! Find why they feel rewarded, and you will find a key to re-navigating their negative behavior. Sometimes this means changing the culture or environment so the reward is eliminated. But, think carefully. Be sure your answer is not a reward in disguise. A grouch my want to be alone all day. So if you eliminate what may appear to be affirmation as an incentive from co-workers by isolating them, you may actually be rewarding them. Then the grouch monster grows.

Challenge the paradigm. And never be afraid to ask why? Sometimes it can be as simple as a little coaching and encouraging. But, if you choose the easy road and keep rewarding the negative, do not be surprised to see the behavior you (and most likely everyone else), regret repeated. Rewarding bad behavior makes the monster grow!


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