Dealing with Difficult Employees and Bad Behavior

Dealingwith Difficult Employees and Bad Behavior

Dealingwith Difficult Employees and Bad Behavior

Theworkforce of any organization is comprised of employees of differentcharacteristics, personalities, and behaviors. In most cases, thedifferences in accounts for the differences in employees’ capacityto comply with organizational rules, cooperate with other employees,and enhance their productivity at workplace (Treace, 2012). Althougheveryone is born with some inmate characteristics, it is evident thatmany people learn certain behavior from their daily interaction withother people. This means that behavior can be learned or dropped outthrough reinforcement or punishment. The reinforcement of negativebehaviors promotes the development of bad behavior and difficultemployees at the workplace. This paper will focus on the ways ofdealing with difficult employees and bad behavior at workplace asdemonstrated in two scenarios. The paper will evaluate the responseof the sergeant and propose what can be done to promote order in theworkplace.


Thefirst scenario involves telling of sexually explicit jokes amongsecurity officers at their place of work. The sergeant officer namesStevens noticed female dispatchers who were standing a few feet fromthe male officers who were telling sexually explicit jokes. The mostimport thing in this scenario is the decision made by Stevens, whochose to ignore the situation and report it. The sergeant’sdecision to ignore the immediate situation was not the right thing todo because he had the responsibility of correcting the behavior ofhis juniors and prevent sexual harassment of other employees. TitleVII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 includes sexist jokes and directsexual advancement as major forms of sexual harassments at workplace(Treace, 2012). The act holds employees and managers of institutionsliable for sexual harassment among co-workers. This means that thesergeant’s decisions to ignore sexist jokes that were said in thepresence of the female dispatchers were not effective in preventingbad behavior among the junior staff.

Thedecision by the sergeant to ignore the immediate situation, tellingof sexist jokes at workplace, could not maintain good order, but itwas a means of disrupting order. According to McLeod (2007) behavioris learned and the tendency of human beings to repeat it depends onthe reinforcement they get from people they interact with.Reinforcement can occur in the form of omission or commissions thatencourage people to either stop or repeat certain behavior. In thepresent case, the sergeant’s decision to ignore the sexist jokeswas an omission that could encourage the officers to keep on tellingsexually explicit jokes in the presence of female dispatchers. Thisis a common mistake that many leaders make by assuming that problemswill disappear by themselves. The repetition of the behavior oftelling sexist jokes will eventually disrupt order at the workplace,and reduce the productivity and efficiency of the workers.

Thesergeant can take three major actions to maintain order in theworkplace and reduce bad behavior at the workplace. First, thesergeant should address the immediate situation by warning theofficers about the negative effects of making sexist jokes in thepresence of female dispatchers and require them to refrain from thatbehavior. The sergeant can decide to warn them in the presence of thefemale dispatchers or in a separate session. Secondly, since behavioris learned and it can be unlearned, the sergeant should prepare anemployee handbook containing behavioral expectations as well as theconsequences of breaking the policies on sexual harassment (McLeod,2007). The handbook should then be circulated to all employees as along-term strategy of reducing bad behavior and maintaining order atthe place of work. Lastly, the sergeant should evaluate employees’compliance with the policies in order to ensure that all officersadhere to an accepted code of conduct.

Thedifficult employee

Thesecond scenario involves a difficult employee named Smith, who hasbecome sarcastic about new policy changes, directives, and ordersgiven to him as an individual or a group. Although Smith is among themost productive officer and has earned respect from other officersfor his leadership abilities, the act of being sarcastic to changesand directives makes him a difficult officer. However, the decisionto suspend Smith is counterproductive because it affects hisproductivity in a negative way. It is evident from case that Smithhad established a record of good performance and leadership that hasbeen recognized by co-workers. This means that using suspension asthe first action to correct Smith was incorrect because it failed totake into account of his positive attributes.

Thesergeant’s decision to suspend Smith did not promote good orderbecause it was based on the negative behavior of Smith, while failingto appraise him for his productivity and remarkable leadershipabilities. Using the rule of carrot and stick, it is advisable foradministrators to reward their juniors for the best performance andpunish them accordingly for their bad behavior (Wartzman, 2013).Similarly, the sergeant should have rewarded Smith for hisproductivity and leadership abilities and punish him the beingsarcastic for policy changes. However, punishment should beadministered with the objective of correcting and not hurting thejuniors. In the present scenario, suspending Smith was hurting anddisrupted order by reducing his motivation and productivity. Thismeans that the sergeant should have considered a less harsh decision.

Thesergeant should consider short-term and long-term measures to correctthe bad behavior adopted by Smith. It would be important for thesergeant to warn Smith before suspending him since his habit of beingsarcastic is not a continuous behavior. It is evident from thescenario that Smith had not been warned about him being a difficultofficer prior to his suspension. Warning Smith would be a necessaryshort-term measure that would reduce his negative behavior withoutaffecting his productivity. This is based on the fact that a properlyadministered punishment with the primary goal of correcting thesubject cans successful result in behavior change (McLeod, 2007).Clear definition of the acceptable behavior among the officers is along-term measure that they (including Smith) comply with the code ofconduct.

Inconclusion, bad behavior among employees is learned and can beunlearned through reinforcement and punishment. Reinforcement ofemployees to repeat certain behavior can take the form of omission orcommissions by the management. In the first scenario, the sergeantfailed to warn the officers about their misconduct and this isreinforcement for them to continue making sexist jokes. In the secondscenario, the sergeant suspended Smith as a form of punishment, butthe action was counterproductive because it failed balance betweenreward and punishment. This means that leaders should correct badbehavior and deal with difficult officers using fair strategies thatwill reward them for their positive attributes and equally punishthem for the negative behavior.


McLeod,S. (2007). Skinner Operant conditioning. SimplyPsychology.Retrieved July 10, 2014, from

Treace,J. (2012). Doesyour rock star have a bad attribute?New York, NY: Mansueto Ventures.

Wartzman,R. (2013). Tobe a better boss, use a stick or a carrot?London: Forbes.