Should Bad Behaviour at the Workplace Be Dealt With a Velvet Glove in an Iron Fist?

Should We Follow Joe Biden’s Approach in Dealing with Bad Workplace Behaviour?

Recently, the incoming President of the United States held a Zoom call with his key staffers and warned them that if ever he came across anyone of his staff talking down or being disrespectful to their colleagues, he would immediately fire them on the spot.

He also emphasized the importance of being civil and good mannered towards each other and reiterated that bad behaviour at the workplace would not be tolerated at all.

While this might seem an extreme reaction on first glance, upon reflection, it does appear as a good way to ensure that staff behave well and carry themselves with dignity and discipline.

Moreover, Biden was also signalling that the Trump Administration’s Cavalier attitude towards civility is a thing of the past and what he meant was that the Epidemic of Bad Behaviour in the Workplace has to end and he would take steps to ensure that.

Indeed, in these polarized times, organizations are beset with rude and worse, downright nasty employees who do not think twice before being aggressive and insulting to their co-workers, colleagues, and juniors as well as superiors.

Dealing with Bad Workplace Behaviour with a Iron Fist Cloaked in a Velvet Glove

Therefore, the moot question to ask is whether bad behaviour at the workplace can be tolerated to a certain extent or it should be dealt with an Iron Fist.

On the other hand, there some management experts who believe that some amount of bad behaviour can be tolerated, provided it does not cross the limit and engender the workplace atmosphere.

The contention of the former is that any forms of rudeness and aggression has to be put down firmly whereas the latter feel that some employees might be having a bad day and hence, some form of latitude ought to be given to them as long as they do not indulge in periodic and lasting bad behaviour.

It is our argument that workplace civility and decency as well as dignity of the employees are paramount and towards this end, we recommend that bad behaviour be dealt with an Iron Fist, but cloaked in Velvet Glove so that there are no bad feelings after the act.

In other words, we suggest that employees be warned if they are rude and uncivil to each other and in case they repeat such behaviour, then punitive action ought to be taken according to policies.

Why Bad Workplace Behaviour has Become Endemic and How Seniors Often Get Away

Talking about policies concerning bad behaviour, in our working experience, we have worked in Multinationals where even raising one’s voice is considered as impolite and moreover, employees are expected to be civil and pleasant with each other.

Indeed, most of the organizations we came across had Zero Tolerance to Bad Behaviour and in some cases; employees were fired on the spot for being overly aggressive and threatening to their colleagues.

While we feel that such punishments seem harsh, it is also the case that organizations need to set an example for others and the best way to ensure that the message goes across the organization is to not tolerate such behaviour at all.

On the other hand, we have also come across cases where Managers and Senior Employees, who are deemed to be valuable to the organization, get away with rudeness and bad tempered actions and in our view, the policies ought to be the same for all employees.

Recently, the Prime Minister of the United Kingdom had to deal with a crisis where senior ministers were accused of shouting and bullying their staff and it emerged that some of them got away which is something Biden would not tolerate.

How the Present Times Normalize Aggression and Dealing with it Firmly and Humanely

The point to note here is that the times we live in normalize aggression and rudeness and uncivilized behaviour and hence, organizations are in a dilemma as to how much they can tolerate bad behaviour.

Moreover, our lives and our jobs are so stressful that invariably, the stress gets to us and we blow up at others for even minor infractions.

In addition, one can be going through a personal crisis and this can reflect in their workplace behaviour.

All these instances are examples of how seemingly cool and level headed employees can be rude and aggressive to others.

This is where a skilled Human Resources or a People Manager can help as he or she would be able to analyze the situation objectively and then proceed accordingly.

Indeed, this is the reason why we mentioned an Iron Fist in a Velvet Glove Approach so that bad behaviour is dealt with firmly and at the same time, does not demoralize the others.

Care should be taken to not perpetuate the Cycle of Bad Behaviour and the HR or the People Managers ought to view the cases of bad behaviour humanely and at the same time, firmly to take action accordingly.

The Same Rules Must Apply to Senior Leaders

Last, there are many Business Leaders who throw tantrums and are known to be hyper aggressive towards their juniors.

As we have mentioned earlier, there cannot be any exceptions and bad behaviour by anyone irrespective of rank should not be tolerated.

Moreover, media attention on such leaders means that there would be other consequences such as legal action by the aggrieved victims causing damage to the organizations.

Therefore, it is incumbent upon organizations to deal with bad workplace behaviour as firmly as possible so that it does not catch on.

To conclude, aggression is infectious and hence, cannot be tolerated.


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The article is Written By “Prachi Juneja” and Reviewed By Management Study Guide Content Team. MSG Content Team comprises experienced Faculty Member, Professionals and Subject Matter Experts. We are a ISO 2001:2015 Certified Education Provider. To Know more, click on About Us. The use of this material is free for learning and education purpose. Please reference authorship of content used, including link(s) to ManagementStudyGuide.com and the content page url.