Coworker Crisis Behaviors

We focus so much of our attention on the crisis episodes of the individuals in our charge that we sometimes forget how staff interactions can have an impact on all of us. Of course, behavior is behavior regardless of where or who it’s coming from. Crisis intervention applies just as well to the people we share our work spaces with. So, what can one do if being bullied? What works with the coworker who constantly complains about workplace realities? How about the staff member who reveals that she’s being harassed?

Some approaches to consider are those introduced to us by psychologist Nicholas J. Long. These include stop the behavior, tolerate or ignore it, encourage it, or plan for or prevent it.

Bullying by anyone in your workplace is unacceptable, and bullying is a behavior that we clearly need to stop. A good start is addressing with the bully what you find inappropriate. This should be done in a nonjudgmental way and in private with the goal of making the bully aware of what actions you find unacceptable. You have good intentions, but ultimately the decision is theirs to stop the behavior or not. If the bullying continues, your next stop could be the human resources department or your supervisor. Let them take it from there.

Your coworker may have a different political or religious view than your own. This is something that you may simply want to tolerate or ignore. Unless they are trying to shove their viewpoint down your throat, silence on your part can speak volumes. Giving them your opposite perspective will usually only lead to more of the behavior you find so annoying.

You may have a new employee who’s constantly coming to you for advice or help. While the behavior may be distracting to you, stopping it or ignoring it could send the wrong message. Encourage them to still seek you out for advice, but set some limits on when and/or how frequently they can come to you.

Planning and prevention require that you be proactive. What behavior is it that you want to plan for? You might have a cubicle neighbor who routinely brings strong-smelling edibles for lunch. Can you plan to take your lunch break outside during the same time they bring their stomach-churning meal to their desk?

This is by no means a complete list. It's just a framework for all of you to make better decisions to get better outcomes. We are interested in your stories and techniques. Please provide them in the comments section.

Get helpful hints about behavior management.


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