Tolerating Temper Tantrums

Tolerating Temper Tantrums
When you see this behavior, you must act quickly to nip it in the bud.

We are all familiar with temper tantrums thrown by children, some of them have been from our own kids!  What happens however when adults throw a temper tantrum at work?  For example, what should you do if an employee, enraged over a phone conversation, rips the phone from its cord and throws it across the room?  If the employee is a top performer or essential employee, do you ignore this behavior?  Should you?  The answer is – absolutely not!  Tolerating such behavior essentially tells other employees that doing such things is okay, and it provides cover for them to do something similar.  In addition, you are training the abuser to continue their unacceptable behavior.  Over time, this can create a toxic atmosphere in your company.  How widespread is this issue anyway?  Consider the following statistics.*

  • 60 million Americans are affected by abusive conduct in the workplace
  • 61% of Americans are aware of abusive conduct that takes place in the workplace
  • Up to 81% of employers are perceived as doing nothing, and resist taking action when targets of abusive conduct fill out a survey
  • 71% of employer reactions are harmful to the workplace targets of abusive behavior
  • 29% of employees who are targets of abusive behavior remain silent about their experiences
  • To stop abusive behavior in the workplace, 65% of targets lose their original jobs

* Statistics from the June, 2017 National Survey On Workplace Bullying by WBI

So, what should you do when such behavior is exhibited, given that you are not willing to tolerate it?  Essentially, you have two choices.

  1. The easy path is to simply fire the employee.  On the positive side, this sends a clear message to all employees that abusive behavior will not be tolerated.  On the negative side however, you lose a top performer without finding out if they could be rehabilitated.
  2. The more difficult path is to document the abusive behavior, coach the employee, and put in place a corrective action plan for them.  If that does not work, proceed to termination.

If option #2 is chosen, it is important to immediately react to the negative behavior by sitting down with the employee and take the following steps.

  1. Describe the offending behavior to the employee by describing their specific actions.
  2. Explain to the employee the impact their behavior has on other employees as well as customers
  3. Let the employee know what behavior(s) you will not put up with in the future.  Also, let them know exactly what will happen if they exhibit such behavior in the future, up to and including termination
  4. If such behavior occurs again, you must act – and quickly.  You must also be prepared to terminate the employee if necessary

If you have an employee handbook, you should include a discussion about abusive workplace behavior, and consequences for same.  Know however that actions speak louder than words, and as the employer, you must be prepared to act on the words you have committed to.

Source: thebalancecareers; How to Deal with a Bully at Work