Let's not tolerate bad behaviour

Is it just my perception (possibly my age) or does bad behaviour seem to be on the rise? We see it in social media where terribly nasty things are said behind the protection of the screen. We see it on the road where middle fingers fly for any perceived wrongdoing. And we see it in the workplace where egos can be easily bruised and paranoia often runs high.

Has it become so common that we simply shrug our shoulders and move on? This week in Toronto we saw atrocious behaviour at a sporting event. But CityTV reporter Shauna Hunt, did not shrug her shoulders….and, to steal a line from my friend on FaceBook, she is now my hero.

When Shauna was verbally attacked by several men (and I use the term loosely) she clearly had had enough and decided it was time to inform them that the bad behaviour was not going to be tolerated. What was so impressive about her performance is that she remained calm; she held her head high and simply told them the facts and questioned whether they really understood how disgusting they were. As a result, and because the crew was smart enough to keep the cameras running, the bad behaviour has been exposed and what is apparently a trend will hopefully be squashed.

It is truly sad that it has come to this. A young man has lost his job and been publicly shamed and there is likely more fallout to come.

There’s a lesson in this story and it is this – when we tolerate bad behaviour we are also guilty. When we don’t speak up, we are essentially saying it’s okay.

In the workplace it is all too common to let bad behaviour slide with disastrous consequences. We’ve seen a very public example of this in Canada recently at our national broadcaster, where star power and the drive for ratings trumped concern of sexual harassment.

I’ve witnessed this myself in business where abusive behaviour was tolerated for too long because an employee was deemed to be irreplaceable by virtue of critical knowledge or skill. Unfortunately, the bigger picture is often overlooked in these scenarios. One badly behaving employee can destroy the culture of an entire team leading to low morale, decreased productivity, distrust of leadership and even unwanted attrition.

Here’s the thing – no one is irreplaceable. And often times, some direct coaching can help the employee become aware of their action and make a positive change. This type of behavioural coaching is not easy but it is necessary.

So in the interest of reducing bad behaviour in the workplace, here are some do’s and don’ts for managers to consider when dealing with a behavioural issue:


  • Address the issue quickly (the longer it lingers, the harder the conversation will be)

  • Stick to the facts (use words like “I have observed …”)

  • Ask the employee their plan of action for correcting their behaviour

  • Have the conversation behind closed doors (no one else needs to hear this private matter)

  • Do ensure you give a detailed explanation of why the behaviour won’t be tolerated and what the next steps could be (be sure to consult your H.R. partners on this matter).

  • Be kind – don’t confuse bad behaviour with a bad person. We all make mistakes.


  • Make the issue bigger than it is and ensure the employee feels supported. If otherwise their performance is stellar let them know that first.

  • Lose your cool. Even if the employee gets defensive or aggressive stick to your facts and don’t let the dialogue degrade. If needed take a break to let things cool down but be sure to come back to it.

  • Be afraid to take the ultimate action. If bad behaviour continues despite your best coaching efforts cut out the cancer to save the patient. (Again, make sure you are getting proper H.R. advice before proceeding)

Thanks Shauna Hunt for reminding us that bad behaviour should not be tolerated but mostly for modelling grace in the face of vulgarity.

My hope is that we learn from from Shauna’s example. Whether at a sporting event, in the workplace or anywhere else, let’s do each other the kindness of enlightening when actions and/or words are not acceptable.

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