Workplace Stress And The Role Of Low-level Poor Behaviour

Workplace Stress Toleration

Often in the workplace, staff members exhibit ‘poor behaviours’ that may not be serious in isolation but can often lead to workplace stress because of their persistent nature. This can include such things as banter with other staff, comments about peers, being unnecessarily loud, interrupting other staff who are working, inciting competition among team members or similar behaviours that might normally be considered harmless as a one-off event.

If left to fester, such behaviours can be destructive to the team environment and lead to divisiveness and even a complete breakdown of the team culture. Yet managers often tolerate such behaviour and allow it to go unresolved.

Is it because:

  • The staff member is a high performer and the manager does not want to lose them?
  • The staff member is a high conflict personality which makes the conversation too uncomfortable?
  • The manager is concerned the staff member will raise a bullying complaint against them?
  • The manager is too busy to address the issues?
  • The manager doesn’t see the behaviour as a problem?
  • The manager hopes the situation will resolve itself?
  • The manager thinks the issue is not important enough to warrant their intervention?
  • The manager believes their intervention will not have any impact on the situation?

Regardless of the reason, managers should not be allowed by their manager to avoid addressing the poor behaviour of a team member.

Fostering respect over toleration

An aware manager will notice such behaviours and rather than putting up with them, will nip them in the bud early. Doing so will create a more positive team culture.

In such an environment, team members will be respectful towards each other and sensitive to the impact their behaviours have on their peers. This in turn leads to improved performance and collaboration amongst the team.

Leadership can prevent tolerations from becoming workplace stressors

Because the cause of the problem can often be subtle, managers need to attune themselves to the team dynamic to identify the presence of tolerations.

  • Notice the subtle cues of team members. If they are turning away from a peer or ‘appearing busy’ when a peer approaches there is probably an underlying cause
  • Notice the subtle cues between team members. Are they rolling their eyes or sharing frustration when a particular behaviour is exhibited?
  • Notice your own reactions to particular behaviours. If they are making you wince or frustrating you, even slightly, chances are that others are feeling the same way.
  • Consider the possibility that ‘trivial’ complaints from staff members might actually be causing workplace stress because they are so persistent.

Once a cause is identified, it’s incumbent on the manager to address the issue.

  • Coach the staff member(s) concerned to be aware of the impact their behaviour might be having on other staff.
  • Invite them to consider what might happen if they ceased that behaviour and remind them that if their peers are less ‘annoyed’ that the whole team benefits.
  • You could even establish a visual or auditory cue to help remind them when they lapse back into a habitual behaviour.
  • Make sure you ‘check in’ with the staff member to ensure the agreed steps are indeed being taken.
  • Keep informal meeting notes in case they need to be referred to later on.

Stop small workplace problems from becoming big ones

By keeping the small problems in the workplace in check, you can reduce workplace stress and empower your team to better deal with the bigger problems and challenges that come along. This is typically where the frustrations are vented but, if the frustrations don’t develop in the first place, the team can work together in a more constructive manner.

To help keep your team collaborative and communicative, consider subscribing to our short series of Communication Tips. Sharing these will your team will also reduce stress in your workplace.

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