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NAPW Business Forum: Rise Above! Handling Bad Workplace Behavior


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Ahhh, the office. A tranquil, harmonious land where we pursue our dreams, doing what we love while getting paid to do it! Well, at least it is… in an ideal world. According to The Cost of Bad Behavior by Christine Pearson, 96% of people have experienced incivility (disrespectful behavior) in the workplace, with 94% saying they have attempted to get even with their tormentors. Yes, those are some seriously scary stats! It’s time to rise above and get a handle on bad workplace behavior.

Mirror, Mirror
Take a look at yourself and the situation. Do you see a pattern of disrespect from a co-worker or boss? Or was it simply that they were having a bad day? Maybe what you thought was bad behavior was just an example of stress – on their part. Make sure to assess each instance of what you feel is disrespect so that you can properly address it if necessary.

Change of Address
So, the disrespect is definitely a pattern. Stay calm and think. Put your thoughts in order, write them down and pick the key points you want to address. Then tell your co-worker, who might not even be aware of the negative impact of their words, why their offensive behavior is troubling. As you speak with them, remain pleasant and agreeable and make sure to use the “I” message, a communication tactic that focuses on your experience rather than attacking or accusing the other person.

Group Speak
If you know there are others in your office experiencing hostile behavior from one particular person, consider approaching the other “targets” and speak to the offending party as a group. Using tact, diplomacy and as much compassion as possible, let the offender know that all of you want to solve the issue and move on for a better workplace experience for everyone.

Higher Power
If the group approach does not work for a positive outcome, you have to make a decision: Speak to human resources or your manager or try to avoid the offender whenever possible. Since the latter might be hard to do, state your case to a higher up, explaining calmly how the work environment would be much more productive with the offending party ending their disrespectful behavior; then step back. In this case, you’ll have to live with whatever the “higher power” decides to do with the situation.

Move On
Reality: We all have our level of “up to here.” If you’ve had yours, it’s time to consider a new job. And, remember to stay positive about your experiences. You’ve learned a lot about yourself and others, and are now well equipped to know a “good” work environment when you experience it. Good luck!

How have you handled bad workplace behavior? If you’ve encountered difficult bosses or unprofessional co-workers, tell us about the experience.

Please leave your comments below and be sure to take our poll. When you’re done, keep the conversation going on Facebook, Twitter & Pinterest!

We want to hear from you! Let us know the answers to these questions below. Please share your tips about handling unprofessional workplace behavior.


Megan Bozzuto


  1. Diann James
    August 6, 2014 at 8:11 pm

    The key word in one of the suggested solutions is “confront”, which is the root of confrontation. Disrespectful people will not respect calm. (Do not cast your pearls before swine.) However, they do understand unemployment and that they could be out of a job if they don’t stop certain negative behaviors in the workplace; so simply report the person in confidence to management and let them handle it. Management – 1 verbal, 1documented discussion, 1 written and final warning, and then termination.

    • nia
      August 20, 2014 at 7:03 pm

      What needs to take place when management sees and knows about the disrespectful employee and does nothing to deter that person’s behavior?

      • Melissa Reid
        September 4, 2014 at 1:44 pm

        Tell your supervisor you are thinking about leaving if the behavior doesn’t change. If they respect you, then something will be done.

  2. Karen Bauerschmidt
    August 22, 2014 at 2:26 am

    When it is your direct upper management playing the disrespectful game even after addressed by human resources it is time to move on. Staying calm and focused while looking for a new job can be challenging.