Behaviour Modification

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Ever been in a situation where other person’s behaviour perplexed you?

Can you for a moment think and categorize, if that behaviour was unpleasant or would you categorize it as outright bad? Or is undesired the right word?

Any behaviour that does not conform to the rules of the society is considered undesired. But that’s a larger subject.

For this article, let’s stick to what happens at your workplace and imagine this scenario

A new colleague, say X with an exceptional academic background and work experience joins your team. Because of X’s previous record and the first impression made during the interview, X becomes everyone’s favourite.

However, X lacks the understanding and usage of appropriate methods, tools or industry best practices to get the work done yet does not ask for help. X does not complete work on time and is often found talking on their mobile phone during work hours. When confronted, X ignores and treats immediate colleagues as inferiors.

At the time of the deadline, X somehow charms the team to understand the details of the task and comes forward to present it. Everyone else thinks the task completion is due to X’s effort and X is appreciated. (X here is considered gender neutral)

Does this scenario sound familiar? Let’s list down X’s behaviour which can be called as undesired (from your perspective) since the workplace has defined rules and guidelines –

  • Failure to complete work on time
  • Treating colleagues as inferiors
  • Taking credit for someone’s work
  • Using distractions while at work

If X continues to behave this way, do you think it will impact the rest of the team? What then is the solution?

Behaviour Modification

The key to any behaviour modification is to first understand the problem correctly & completely. One can then take these necessary steps –

  • Diagnosing the behaviour
  • Understanding the personal, social, and environmental factors that affect/maintain these behaviours
  • Using positive reinforcements to alter the behaviours

Is Behavioural Change easy?

Getting employees to choose the right behaviour in the workplace is always a challenge. Any change prescribed is often rejected as employees have very good (and very personal) reasons for not accepting the new behaviour.

Change is possible only if we get the buy-in from the employees. They have to be involved in the process, creating the standards of behaviour themselves. Such actions are accepted because it take into account the employee concerns and allow them to determine the right way to overcome concerns.

Unfortunately, behaviour modification of one or a few employees is not enough. Change must happen at an organisational level.

At an organisational level, unaccepted or undesirable behaviour can have a tangible impact on overall profitability. Missed deadlines and unhappy customers can only worsen the situation. There is also a danger of employee demotivation, no organisation would want to lose those who genuinely work hard. Demotivated employees will leave the company or worse, stay around and lose their productivity. There is no guarantee that new hires will not fall into a similar category.

Key Points to note

On an organisational level, establishing policies on behavioural expectations and consequences can be set. Usually, these are available in the employee handbook. Regular updation would help in the long run.

On an individual level, documenting the bad behaviour of a team and addressing individual employees privately can help in bringing awareness.

Citing specific examples can be useful to highlight what is considered as bad behaviour. Work out a plan to help the employee correct/improve the behaviour.

Monitoring and regular feedback exercises will also prove beneficial in this change exercise.

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