UK & Northern Ireland Divisions | Mon - Fri - 9am - 5pm

Managing Challenging Behaviour at Work

behaviour at work

Managing Challenging Behaviour at Work

Managing Challenging Behaviour at Work

Challenging behaviour at work occurs more often than you may think. This experience can happen to anyone at any level, including:

  • Colleagues
  • Customers
  • Suppliers
  • Managers

Furthermore, getting along with everyone in life is impossible. Disagreements will occur, which is normal! Additionally, this does not reflect poorly on management either. However, these issues mustn't be left unresolved. As such, problems can result in an uncomfortable working environment for all colleagues. Not just the ones involved. Therefore, finding a solution should always be a priority whenever challenging behaviour at work occurs. So, we have prepared strategies to help manage problems before they escalate too far. We will define complex behaviour and how to manage it should issues arise.

What is Challenging Behaviour?

Challenging behaviour at work can present itself in a variety of forms. Furthermore, defining problematic behaviour is subjective. Feelings vary from person to person. So, acknowledge that individuals will be affected by behaviour on various levels. Additionally, another mention is the level of patience needed. A solution rarely happens straight away. Be patient and allow it to take the time it needs, whether it needs one conversation or five. Finally, colleagues need reassurance that their feelings matter. Doing this assures colleagues that the problem will be dealt with seriously. No matter how big or small the problem may be.

As mentioned, minor disagreements will occur. Unfortunately, it happens. However, challenging behaviour in the workplace goes one step further. Such behaviour usually puts an individual at risk. Challenging behaviour at work can look like:

  • Aggression
  • Inappropriate comments or behaviour
  • Refusing to cooperate
  • Disruptive nature
  • Harassment

Dealing with Challenging Behaviour

Dealing with challenging behaviour at work is tricky. Locating the root of the problem requires a lot of effort. Sometimes a solution can come from intervention with managers alone. However, it all depends on how long the issues have been present. If it has gone on for a while, HR will become involved until resolved.

Dealing with the issues should be made a priority. Therefore, mental health concerns or other personal problems can arise if problematic behaviour continues. Examples of these include:

  • Lack of motivation
  • Inability to connect with colleagues
  • Disengagement with work

Techniques to Manage Challenging Behaviour

As mentioned above, handling these conflicts can require a lot of patience. However, we are all human, and all we want is to feel valued and listened to at the end of the day. So, take time in listening to both sides of the story. Ensuring everyone's feelings are acknowledged helps towards reducing future conflict. Consider these techniques when resolving challenging behaviour at work.

Be Understanding 

Feeling misunderstood in the work environment is common amongst colleagues. By listening and understanding their perspective, trust starts building. Building this trust helps foundations productive resolutions to occur. Additionally, it shows respect towards colleagues and trusts you with any issues in the future.

Remain Calm

Challenging behaviour can trigger emotions in colleagues and managers. Remember to remain calm when communicating with employees and refrain from responding. Keeping calm will help lower their hostility, as you are not rising to theirs.

Forward Mindset

Removing problematic behaviour starts by focusing on improvements. Start these improvements by putting a plan in place. The procedure can show what they will do if they feel the urge to act in a certain way in the future.

Company Improvements 

Managing challenging behaviour at work is hard to master. Here are some methods to think about introducing:

Behaviour Policies

Most importantly, ensure you use policies to manage challenging behaviour at work. For example, outline your employees' expectations in company policies, e.g., specific behavioural policy.

Set Standards

Sometimes, employees or managers try to ignore challenging behaviour at work. Mostly this is out of fear of what might happen if they complain. However, if an employee behaves negatively towards others, this process becomes more difficult.


Teamwork including more teamwork activities in the workplace could help create connections between colleagues. It can help colleagues feel more included within work teams, making a more positive environment.

Thoughts To Keep in Mind

As we have previously said, being serious and professional is vital. In doing so, staff members recognise your capability of handling such problems. Similarly, this also aids staff members by presenting you as approachable. Therefore, when a colleague does need to raise a concern about colleague behaviour, they feel trusted. This trust is in you as a person and in your ability to take the situation seriously.

However, keeping an equal stance is essential. Becoming 'too friendly' in these situations could lead to more significant disagreements. Staying neutral where possible removes the risk of being accused of choosing one side. Although, if one person is wrong, taking one side is allowed.

Mental Health Impacts

It would help if you acknowledged the mental impact on individuals when subject to problematic behaviour at work. It would not be surprising that ongoing disruptions at work could lead to long-lasting mental health impacts. In addition, it can trigger other emotions when the environment becomes hostile.

Disruptions at Work

Disruptions at work can act as added stress, leading to experiences with anxiety. Personal relationships can also be affected as they could take problems at work home with them. The result can lead to arguments at home, which means both work and home environments suffer.

Performance Issues

Similarly, performance within the workplace could suffer. But, again, speaking up about behaviour at work that affects you can prevent you from getting in trouble. For example, managers may not realise a disruption issue behind why your work ethic is affected. So, speaking up can supply the support you need and reduce stress about currently not performing well at work.

The Right Environment

Creating a safe, supportive environment for colleagues at work is more important than you think. If you are a colleague and do not feel you have this support from your workplace, bring it up. Your voice and opinion are valued, so raise essential topics to help you and your work ethic.

We understand it is not easy when in this position. We also understand how scary it is to speak up about topics like this. Whilst we can supply all the information needed, sometimes it is not enough. Some experiences with negative behaviour at work will be worse than others. So, use your judgement. If a deep chat can resolve it, then choose that method. Not all instances require superior intervention. However, if that applies to you, our tips will hopefully guide you.

Written by Guest Writer

Nicole Foulkes

If you or your organisation are struggling with poor behaviour at work, then get in touch. We can offer 1-2-1 support and workshops to make a difference in your workplace.


What are bad behaviours at work?

Bad behaviour examples are rude, aggressive, disrespectful or classified as bullying.

Toggle title

Toggle content goes here, click edit button to change this text.

What is the best behaviour at work?

Working well within a team, positive attitude towards tasks and co-workers, being respectful and being on time.

No Comments

Give a comment