Managing Challenging Behaviour

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Health Assured team

03 December 2021

In the workplace, you may come across challenging behaviour from several sources- from colleagues, managers, customers or even suppliers.

Productivity drops, morale breaks down, and engagement can hit an all-time low. If left, these behaviours could lead to disciplinary action and serious complaints.

That’s why employers must understand how to manage challenging behaviour in the correct way.

In this guide, we’ll describe the effective management of challenging behaviour in the workplace. We'll also look at what challenging behaviour is and how you can deal with it when it occurs.

What is challenging behaviour?

Challenging behaviours can occur in a variety of forms, and they can range in intensity. Defining behaviour that is challenging is subjective, and perceptions can vary between individuals.

But the behaviour is abnormal. It usually puts an individual’s emotional, physical, or psychological at risk. Here are some examples of challenging behaviours in the workplace:

  • Aggression.
  • Disruptiveness.
  • Refusal to cooperate.
  • Inappropriate behaviour.
  • Harassment.

Dealing with challenging behaviour

When dealing with challenging behaviour, think about what the underlying causes of the behaviour might be. If challenging behaviour continues it can cause mental health concerns or other personal life problems such as:

  • Lack of motivation.
  • Disengagement with work.
  • Struggling to connect with colleagues.

Recognising a case of challenging behaviour is the first step.

Try to get to the root cause of the reason for it. This will help you to work with the employee and arrive at a more successful outcome.

Consider whose responsibility is it to manage challenging behaviour in your workplace. Think about if the burden will fall on your line manager. If the HR department can intervene, this may be a suitable alternative.

Often, it's helpful for managers to try and resolve the issue with the employee directly before HR get involved. But every workplace is different. Sometimes a joint approach between departments can work too.

How to manage challenging behaviour

Managing difficult employees is a tough skill to master. Consider how you can improve your current approach:

  • Improve Training - managers are often lacking in sufficient training to deal with employee issues effectively. They are the first port of call for employees, whether it’s an issue with the workload, home life or health related.
  • Use Behaviour Policies - ensure you use policies and procedures to manage behaviour that can be challenging. Outline your expectations of employees in company policies, whether it’s a a general code of conduct or a specific behavioural policy.
  • Set standards - sometimes employees or managers ignore challenging behaviour at work for fear of what might happen if they make a complaint. If an employee behaves in a hostile or threatening way towards others, this process is even more difficult.

When a staff member does raise a concern about a colleague’s behaviour, take it seriously.

Communicate your zero-tolerance approach to challenging behaviour in the workplace. Act quickly to create positive change.

Then, you'll start to set the standard expected in the workplace.

Behaviour management techniques for challenging behaviour

Dealing with difficult behaviour takes careful thought and consideration. When interacting with a challenging employee, try the communication techniques below:

  • Be understanding - employees. may feel misunderstood in the work environment. Try to listen and understand their point of view, as this is how productive resolutions occur.
  • Remain calm - challenging behaviour can stir rising emotions in colleagues and managers. Try to keep calm when communicating with employees and refrain from responding.
  • Forward mindset - overcoming difficult behaviour in the workplace is best achieved by focusing on improvements. Put a plan in place about what they will do if they feel the urge to act in a certain way in the future. 

Manage challenging behaviour in mental health related employees

With mental health related issues, you’ll need to take even more care when managing challenging behaviour.

Mental health problems can trigger certain behaviour such as panic attacks, loss of memory, or increased absence. 

Ensure that if you are aware of any mental health problems, you address them with the employee. If you have an Employee Assistance Programme in place, make sure you’re signposting them to it.

Or you may wish to offer time off where necessary for the employee to recover.

Get help managing challenging behaviour from Health Assured

Challenging behaviour can impact team morale and engagement levels in the workplace. But when you take steps to manage challenging behaviour effectively, it’s less likely to occur in the future.

Our Employee Assistance Plan (EAP) helps you look after your employees when they are experiencing difficulties.

We offer a 24/7, 365 helpline with trained counsellors, as well as legal, financial, and medical advisors.

Employees can access this service anytime, anywhere. When you support employees in this way, their mental health and performance at work will improve.

We also offer a support line for managers to guide them in dealing with difficult workplace issues quickly and correctly.

Our wellbeing experts can offer guidance and support on managing challenging behaviour. 

Get in touch today on 0844 891 0353

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