Ask any manager what is their least favorite aspect of the job, and they will probably tell you it is dealing with “people issues”.  However, being a manager means getting results through people, and having the ability to effectively deal with human emotions and behavior is perhaps the greatest skill a manager can possess.  As we bring our series on Management Development to a close, Senior Strategic Partner Charles Parnell reminds us of the effect human emotions have on behavior, and provides some strategies managers can use to minimize negative behavior and support a high performance workforce.    

It is important to recognize that emotions play an important role in everyday behavior in the workplace. There is no thought, attitude, idea or action which does not have a related emotional counterpart. We should express our emotions in a tactful and respectful manner – this is healthy. However, we have been conditioned early in life to suppress or disguise our emotions because we’re not sure how the expression of them will be perceived. As managers and employees interact with each other in the workplace, particular expectations are built up for each other with emotional tolerable limits. When these limits are exceeded, negative behavior is manifested. When this happens, there must be a candid discussion to determine the reason(s) for this behavior and a plan of action executed to address them. Constantly avoiding dealing with feelings can build up a stockpile of pent -up emotions. It can create a festering problem which, when it does not find expression, comes forth in ways that are harmful, hurtful and destructive to relationships. This repression and lack of adequate expression is not limited only to negative emotions such as anger, but also applies to positive emotions such as love. We must develop a way to widen the tolerable limits of emotional expression so that the problems associated with restraint and repression are diminished.

Negative behavior expressed in the workplace leads to poor performance. Effective management demands that we deal with emotions on a rational basis. Denying that emotions exist or not permitting a genuine expression of anger or joy is not healthy. By understanding human behavior, we will be able to identify emotionally-based problems which emerge in the everyday operations of an organization. During our lives, we have developed ways to express disappointment, anger and discontent – in ineffective ways. We have learned that exhibiting hostility can prove ineffective in solving problems with others. We must confront problems head-on, rather than avoiding them. When confronting them with people, we build trust and respect, which are the foundational components to a healthy relationship.

Here are some additional strategies in dealing with negative behavior:

  • Actively listen – understand the problems or perspectives of others
  • Create and maintain an environment of free expression – without penalty
  • Set goals for developing relationships based on honesty and trust
  • Develop and execute strategies to enhance your ability to express your feelings constructively
  • Encourage complaints/disagreements – they are specialized forms of communication. They are usually concerned with working conditions, wages, disciplinary actions, job assignment or tenure rights. As such, they can present useful information about the effectiveness of your management style. They are opportunities to improve a situation. Use the occasion to strengthen the communication relationship for the future.
  • Set SMART goals to address negative performance behavior
  • Provide balanced feedback (positive and negative) in addressing negative behavior
  • Understand negative feedback about our own behavior is usually not very destructive – it’s usually instructive and constructive
  • Understand emotions can and should be dealt with directly. If they are not dealt with, the problems usually become worse.

Negative behavior in the workplace is common; it is driven principally by emotions. Our challenge is to create and sustain an environment where people feel comfortable sharing their emotions. This will lead to the vast majority of problems getting the appropriate resolution. Remember, we now have the New Age Worker. They want to be in on things – goal setting, problem solving and decision making. These characteristics have emotional underpinnings that must be recognized and effectively addressed.

We hope you have enjoyed this Power Idea.  If you want to know more about Dealing with Negative Behavior, don’t hesitate to contact us at and we will be happy to set a time to talk.

Have a Great Week!