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Five sure ways to tackle challenging behaviour as a manager

Being a manager is tough, there are no two ways about it.

From your normal work activity, to leading a team, and all in between, there’s a lot on your plate. So, the last thing you want to deal with is challenging behaviour, right? But unfortunately, it happens. 87% of workers surveyed said they had experienced workplace incivility that impacted their performance at work.

What is challenging behaviour?

Challenging behaviours can occur in a variety of forms and intensities, dependent on the individual. But the behaviour is abnormal within the workplace and affects the team and work environment. These behaviours can include:

  • Disruptiveness
  • Aggression
  • Refusal to cooperate or listen
  • Harassment
  • Inappropriate behaviour

A lot of disruptive behaviour arises from a lack of motivation, low engagement with the work, and poor work relationships. But as many issues the challenging behaviour causes with the individual, it also has a ripple effect amongst the rest of the team.

If challenging behaviour is not dealt with, conflict can arise between the individual and other team members, and overall morale will suffer. In fact, 55% of workers who endured workplace disruption through a challenging colleague have felt their morale suffer, with 36% noticing a reduction in the quality of their work. Frankly, your team will be unhappy. And unhappy people result in a fall in productivity, engagement, and retention.

As a manager, does this give you nightmares? Of course! No one wants to lose their best because of challenging behaviour within their team.

So, how can you tackle challenging behaviour to keep your people happy and engaged?


Take a step back

It’s always easy when disruptive behaviour arrives to go on the defence. But instead, take a step back and think about what the underlying causes of the behaviour might be. Is it frustration with the workload, stress, management, or issues within the team? Sometimes, it may be that they just need to talk things through to realise how the external is affecting them, and the rest of the team at work.

Put all emotions aside

Easier said than done, but it’s important to defuse the emotion before addressing the cause of the behaviour. We’re all guilty of not having the most rational responses when we’re angry or upset, it’s normal! But if emotions are too high, for the employee and yourself, the situation won’t be resolved. It’s important to get into a better headspace, so allow time for a breather and break to cool down before addressing the issue. When emotions are calmer, communication is that much easier, and conflict has a better chance of being resolved.

Provide honest and constructive feedback

A key to managing challenging behaviours is to distinguish the person from their behaviours. Talk to the individual about the behaviours being unacceptable, but take care not to make any personal attacks on who the employee is as a person. Instead, focus on the constructive – provide examples of where the behaviour isn’t acceptable and how it hinders productivity in the workplace, but also how their behaviour might be effective and how they can continue from there. We’re still learning and growing, so you and your people should take this opportunity to develop actions and behaviours in an effective way to enhance workplace relationships.

Listen to your people

If someone in your team raises a concern – take it seriously. It can be difficult to make a complaint to a manager about an issue with a fellow colleague because they fear what may happen to them. In fact, 50% of employees won’t raise a concern because they’re worried about how it’ll affect them, and 39% lack confidence that the issue will be fairly addressed or even taken seriously.

Set the standard – let your people know they always have someone to talk to. Whether it’s about issues with the workplace or individuals, be there for your people and assure them that nothing bad will happen to them for raising the issue. This will let your people know that you care about their safety and well-being, resulting in higher satisfaction.

Invest in your managers

Challenging behaviours and conflict in the workplace put managers in a tricky situation, there’s no two ways about it. Surprisingly, only 31% of managers surveyed felt confident at resolving issues and disagreements. Although it gets easier with experience, your managers need the right training to gain the confidence they need to diffuse and resolve situations effectively.

With our engaging and interactive courses, your managers will learn the effective, and professional techniques and strategies they need. From diagnosing and resolving conflict, to diffusion and intervention techniques for challenging behaviour, our courses will have your managers prepared.


Looking to empower and upskill your employees with online learning? Talk to an expert to find out more about our interactive and engaging eLearning courses.

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Written by Claire Moloney

Claire is an enthusiastic and meticulous content writer whose passion is to support growth and continual learning for everyone.


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