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Curb 4 bad behaviors- and build a positive company culture

As an HR leader, you want to create a positive company culture, but some people’s behavior works against it.

You know who we mean: Corey never backs down. Janice gossips all the time. Frances skirts responsibility. Nick bullies.

You might not have a Corey, Janice, Frances or Nick.

But you and your front-line managers probably encounter confrontation, gossip, laziness and bullying.

Problem often not seen

Nearly 80% of employees say respect and civility are issues in their workplaces, according to Giovinella Gonthier, researcher and author of Rude Awakenings: Overcoming the Civility Crisis in the Workplace.

The problem often is people don’t see the problem. It rears its ugly head in ways that can seem like everyday, common – and eventually normal – situations.

But they aren’t the norm, and leaders want to put a healthy stop to them to make a positive company culture.

Heated political conversations

Many employees have never heard – or just don’t heed – the informal cocktail party rule that applies to work: Don’t discuss politics, religion and money.

News and social media get some people fired up. Then they engage with others who have opposing views. Then neither side will back down, despite being disruptive, popping veins and getting nowhere fast.

What to do: Stop them before it gets worse. Managers want to end any disruptive conversation immediately before it affects other employees.

From there, SHRM experts suggest:

  • reminding employees that respecting colleagues’ views in the workplace is expected
  • referring them to any workplace harassment policies they might be teetering on or violating, and
  • encouraging them to respect each others’ opinions outside of the workplace (because it’s not feasible to ban political conversations).


People who gossip at work hurt morale, impede efficiency and can derail progress. Of course, most gossiping happens outside the manager’s earshot. So it can be difficult to detect.

What to do:

  • Call out the person who’s gossiped, or address the rumor with the team if you don’t know the source.
  • Clarify. Explain why it’s untrue, and/or harmful because you’ll also want to lay out the truth.
  • Encourage positive gossip. Share positive stories about employees’ workplace and life accomplishments. Talk about business goals reached. Even better, ask employees to share similar “gossip” regularly.

Skirting responsibility

Some employees will just avoid doing what they’re supposed to do. Others will blame colleagues when things go wrong. And some will even weasel co-workers into taking on their duties.

It all comes down to shirking responsibility, which can lead to deeper conflict, hurt feelings and low morale.

What to do: This is an area where leaders have total control. You want to consistently hold employees accountable for their responsibilities by setting quantifiable goals, rewarding achievement and correcting failure.


Bullying comes in many forms – such as belittling, sabotaging, pranking and over-demanding.

What to do: You’ll need to immediately investigate bullying reports because all forms of bullying border on harassment.

To avoid or curb bullying behaviors, make cooperation, collegiality and inclusion job requirements. They can be measured just like physical tasks and performance goals are.

Reprinted with permissions 08.2021

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