You’d think that most people would have grown out of childish behavior like throwing tantrums or forming cliques at some point during their teen years. The sad truth is that not everyone is able to leave adolescent behavior behind once they enter workforce.
Imagine trying to work with someone who hid to avoid their duties, purposely ate their coworkers’ food, or intentionally blocked all the best parking spots. While these might sound like plot lines from the The Office, they’re actually real-life examples of juvenile workplace behavior uncovered by a recent survey from CareerBuilder.
The survey found that 77 percent of employees say they have witnessed some form of childish behavior among their colleagues at work, and some of the most common behaviors include things like pouting or whining, tattling on other coworkers, making faces behind people’s backs, and even throwing tantrums or storming out of rooms.
Of course, it’s only natural for people to act out when they’re under pressure, but when juvenile behavior isn’t appropriately address, it can ultimately lower workplace morale and hinder employee productivity.
With that in mind, here a few tips for dealing with childish workplace behaviors:
1. Stay Calm
The best way to shut down tantrums, whining, and other inappropriate employee behavior is to be the sensible adult and stay calm. Responding to anger or frustration in kind will only escalate the situation. If an employee is throwing a tantrum, give them a chance to calm down before you intervene.
The right reaction may not come to you immediately, though. If you feel like you’re becoming frustrated, excuse yourself and take a moment to regain composure. Remember: It’s best to lead by example and model the behavior you’d like to see from your employees.
2. Discuss Issues in Private
Avoid getting caught up in public “he said, she said” discussions with employees. If there is an issue that needs to be addressed, schedule a meeting with the parties concerned. Don’t cause a spectacle by publicly rebuking employees.
Of course, you can’t simply ignore blatantly inappropriate behavior when it happens. If someone is acting out, try to address it with a simple “I’d like to speak with you in private, if you don’t mind. Please come and find me when you have a moment.”
3. Give the Offending Parties a Chance to Explain Themselves
Always allow an employee to explain their side of the story before you weigh in on the matter. More often than not, simply being asked to put things into words will help an employee to see that they have behaved unprofessionally.
Once you have all the facts, you’ll also be in a better position to address the problem and provide specific examples of what sort of behavior is unprofessional and why.
4. Choose Your battles
Some immature or childish behavior in the workplace, such as eye-rolling, making faces, or pouting when things go wrong, is simply par for the course. You can’t police every little thing that happens, or you’ll never get any real work done.
Before intervening, try to determine whether or not someone’s behavior is a harmless way for them to let off some steam or part of a pattern of disruptive behavior that needs to be addressed.
5. Set Clear Boundaries
Every workplace is different, and some employees may simply be unaware of what is expected of them — especially if they’re new to the team.
For instance, a newer employee may be coming from a more casual work environment where things such as playing pranks or swearing were largely tolerated. It’s important to set clear boundaries to ensure everyone knows the standards they will be held to.
Company manuals and handbooks are good to have as points of reference, and it’s always a good idea to put important points in writing after a staff meeting. That being said, in the long run, positive feedback and constructive criticism will always be far more effective than memos and handbooks.
Managers can do a lot to eradicate childish workplace behavior — but so can employees themselves. Not everyone has the power to call a meeting, but everybody in the office can choose to do the right thing and not engage when others are acting badly. With a concerted effort from everyone in the office, you can shut down childish behavior before it spins out of control.