Ignoring Bad Behaviour At Work Will Cost You

Sep 21, 2018 1 Min Read


Experiencing bad behaviour in the workplace significantly impacts an individuals’ morale, job satisfaction, as well as physical and psychological health.

Employees who experience poor management are more likely to have a heart attack within the next decade.

About 80 per cent of women who’ve been harassed leave their jobs within two years.

Depression, psychological distress and emotional exhaustion are common outcomes for bullied workers.

Toxic workers also have a damaging ripple effect on the broader team.

A toxic employee is detrimental to your bottom line 

A claims that having a toxic employee on the payroll costs the average business an additional USD 15,169 per year, primarily due to the departure of high performers who can no longer tolerate the negative team culture.

Even modest levels of unethical behaviour can result in major costs and lost opportunities to the employer organisation, including loss of customers, increased turnover, and lessened legitimacy amongst external stakeholders.

Toxic conduct pulls teams off track, creates unnecessary rifts, wastes management’s time, and damages productivity.

READ: 8 Traits That Are Making You A Bad Employee and Colleague


Addressing toxic behaviour 

The good news?

Addressing bad behaviour in the workplace can generate huge benefits for workers, employers, and the economy, and there are clear actions that we can all take.

Firstly, all staff can learn to be ‘upstanders’, not bystanders, and recognise that the victim of toxic conduct often has the least power to do anything about it.

Colleagues who witness aggression or sexualised behaviour can intervene, standing up for their co-worker, and for professionalism and respect in the workplace.

The many accounts that emerged in the recent #MeToo movement showed that sophisticated bullies and sexual harassers often operate behind the scenes, when no witness is present.

To counter this, employers can encourage concerns to be raised promptly and without fear of retribution.

Create multiple communication channels, including regular employee surveys which address culture, values, and risk-taking (as well as engagement); trusted human resources staff; the ability to make anonymous complaints; and forums which encourage employees to express their views constructively.

Front-line managers can also hone their skills at identifying and addressing misconduct.

Unethical behaviour should be addressed early and fearlessly, before it starts to contaminate the broader organisational culture.

Managers can remind the whole team of its responsibility for building a good workplace culture.

Make sure you walk the talk 

Perhaps most importantly, leaders must ‘walk the talk’.

Boards and senior leaders should address any disconnect between the standards that the organisation says it believes in, and the operational reality.

Ensure that values such as respect, equity, and accountability are truly front and centre in the organisation’s decisions and actions.

Immediately act on behaviour that is ‘toxic at the top’, because as we all know, the conduct of leaders and managers sets the ethical tone for the rest of the organisation.

Does the chief executive officer (CEO) need to have a quiet word with one of the executives?

Could a coach help to build self-awareness and self-control in a ‘rock-star’ employee who misbehaves?

Correcting or removing a toxic worker from your team delivers twice the financial benefit of adding a ‘superstar’.

So, can you really afford to leave bad behaviour unaddressed in the workplace?


Rose Bryant-Smith is a director of workplace advisory firm, Worklogic, and co-author of Fix Your Team. To connect with Rose, email us at editor@leaderonomics.com.


Prefer an e-mag reading experience? This article is also available in our 22nd September 2018 digital issue. Access our digital issues here.

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This article is published by the editors of Leaderonomics.com with the consent of the guest author. 

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