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Tips for Changing Non-Productive Employee Behavior

Are non-productive employee behaviors such as lateness in filling out reports, tardiness in showing up for work, too much personal chit-chatting, or texting instead of doing work really getting on your nerves? These behaviors might seem minor but are examples of nonproductive activities that can be increasingly irritating and impactful to the workplace.

Below are ideas on how you, as an employer, can work with your employees and teams to develop an action plan that successfully changes these behaviors over time.

Develop an Action Plan

First, let’s first identify the key components necessary for your action plan to bring about the desired results:

  • Rewards
  • Consequences
  • Consistency and Follow-through.

Now, let’s look at some action steps we can implement to address each of these key areas:

  1. Identify and Establish Key Values and Conduct. Do this as a team. Discuss your operations and ask your team to consider what is important. This is a way of reaching understanding and agreement on good behavior and letting employees take ownership by engaging them in establishing what is important. Think through this in advance to come up with your own ideas but let members of the team formulate their own ideas which may include things you have not considered. This can include day-to-day behavior such as being on time, pulling your load, pitching in to help, owning and fixing mistakes, etc. Try to keep the list relatively short and simple. Items on the list should be something all employees can memorize, take to heart, and believe in. Finally, ensure that your key values and conduct are something you really want to live by and are willing to enforce. Otherwise, you can end up with continued nonproductive behavior.
  2. Reinforce Key Values and Conduct. Remind employees of your organization’s key values and conduct as often as possible. Reminding is critical for reinforcement. Post your list of key values and conduct conspicuously and bring them up in every team meeting. Hand the list out at new employee orientation and review occasionally for updating with new employees. To reinforce your organization’s key values and conduct even further, find ways to praise and recognize employees for following them whenever possible. Praise and recognition serve as rewards for many employees. They are simple, low cost, effective, and very underutilized ways to reinforce desired behaviors. Catch employees doing something right and find a way to recognize them “in the act” by handing out pennies, tokens, or reward bucks. Consider also having team members bring up what other employees are doing right at meetings, one-on-one, or on a board for all to see. Such rewards help employees make the connection between their actions and what happens at work to learn that what they do matters to you and to others. Employees also realize that you are paying attention to their behaviors.
  3. Take Immediate Action. When you see someone not demonstrating your organization’s key values and conduct, act immediately to find out why and then reeducate, ensuring that there will be consequences for continued nonproductive behavior. Consequences need to occur or employees will observe that you are willing to tolerate nonproductive behavior. You may have to provide written warnings for employees to get the message. This is often the hardest part—being consistent and following through—but doing so is essential to ensure that employees see there are consequences for engaging in nonproductive behavior. Keep in mind that some employees will not change their behavior regardless of what you do, and you need to be prepared to take serious action as needed.
  4. Model Good Behavior. If you don’t follow your own key values and conduct, you will be unsuccessful in motivating others to change their behaviors. Some will continue to do what is right because that is “who they are,” while others will simply disengage from the process. As the saying goes, “lead by example.” You need to earn the respect of those you lead if you want them to follow, and you want them to follow you by doing the right things.
  5. Show Employees You Care About Them as People. If employees think you truly care about them as people, then they are more likely to do what you want to please you and maintain harmony. While you do not want to (and should not) get overly personal, you can show you care by checking in with new employees to see how they are doing, inquire about an employee’s workload, answer an employee’s questions in a timely manner, and being compassionate when needed. In other words, treat your employees with simple, basic human dignity.

Changing Behavior Takes Time

Changing employee behavior is not easy. It takes time, and you need to recognize up front that it can be difficult. Changing culture and behavior does not happen overnight. You will have some challenging situations, but you will also have successes. In the end, if you take the process one step at a time, you and your organization will be rewarded.

Need Help or Assistance?

If you need help with employee performance or conduct issues, contact KMA today!

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