How to Deal with Malicious Behavior

From the Ask Tom mailbag:

Question:

I am a young store manager of two and a half years with no previous managerial experience. Through this time, I have problem employees doing things behind my back, against the rules. I never have enough information to reveal the responsible person or the only information I get is confidential. Mostly, I do not have the time to be involved all day with rule breaking when I am not in the store. What can I do differently to improve this situation?

Response:

It is difficult to understand the nature of the rule breaking, and I see three causes.

  • Malicious, destructive rule breaking, when your back is turned.
  • Lazy, non-compliant rule breaking, when the boss is not around.
  • Fun rule breaking, light hearted, poking fun at authority, when the boss is not around.

For your part, it probably doesn’t matter. If your boss was aware of the hijinks behavior, it would reflect poorly on you as the manager. This is tricky, and the solution is likely counter-intuitive. Your efforts could easily backfire and make the situation worse.

The team members know the rules. People don’t break the rules without knowing the rules. So, this is not a training issue. This is a mindset issue, which is a bigger problem.

Changing a mindset rarely comes from the outside. A Manager cannot dictate that a person change a mindset. Those of you with children can attest. It simply does not work.

The solution will require a multiple set of meetings. I would recommend twice a week, 10 minutes per meeting. So, pick a Monday and Thursday, or Tuesday and Friday, first thing in the morning. As the Leader, simply ask these questions and flipchart the responses from your team. Keep your thoughts to yourself. Post the flipcharts in the break room and leave them there.

  • Meeting 1: How are we doing, working together as a team?
  • Meeting 2: What impact do we, as a team, have on the customer?
  • Meeting 3: In what way can we, as a team, have a more positive impact on the customer?
  • Meeting 4: What impact does our individual behavior have on the behavior of our other team members?
  • Meeting 5: In what way can we, as a team, have a positive impact, helping each other create a more positive customer experience?

The purpose of these meetings is to:

  • Get the team talking about behavior, not the manager talking about behavior.
  • Re-focus the energy of the team from misbehavior to customer focus.
  • Get the team to create its own accountability for behavior, even when the Manager is not around.

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2 thoughts on “How to Deal with Malicious Behavior

  1. Domenick Serrano

    About a year ago we had a serious malicious behavioral issue with a salesman. He was a high performing salesman and had clear leadership ability but he chose to use it in a negative fashion. There was no issue as to who the offender was and I had a meeting with him. I offered to work with him on a one to one basis to turn his leadership ability in a positive direction and we set up a meeting to start the process. He acknowledged his bad behavior and seemed enthusiastic to work with me. Interestingly, he resigned the day before our first scheduled meeting. I like the process you propose in the blog and maybe it would have avoided the result I describe.

    Reply

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