People Power: Bad Behavior...High Performer

June 9, 2015
How to deal with the connected — and usually millennial — employee

Freedom to use their social platforms during the workday is a top priority for most young workers — in fact, 33 percent said in one survey that they were willing to take a pay cut in order to have unlimited access during the workday. These employees are intermingling work-time with playtime. The result may be serious issues for organizations, as employees resist being disconnected from their social life while in the workplace.

Many people new to today’s workforce are more technologically savvy than ever. While they may enter the world of work with tremendous technical skills, they often lack basic people skills — the so-called “soft” skills that form the foundation of a successful work career. They are dismally ill-equipped to handle face-to-face business interactions and believe that their performance, not their behavior, matters most.

Furthermore, today’s new workers have been raised to compete. Throughout their school years it was one highly competitive activity — sports, music, you-name-it — after the next. This can be healthy if taken in the right context, since it may be a good way to prepare for entering the workforce; however, competition in an organizational environment should not be with the person next to them, the department next to theirs, or the division on the floor above them. Employees must focus their competitive spirit in a way that helps their employer — in other words, competition must be with other companies, not within their own organization.

The bottom line is that today’s workforce is changing faster than many of the current generation of supervisors, managers and leaders are prepared for. Continuing to apply the “same old, same old” managerial styles that were effective in the past — and expect to be successful in the future — does not work anymore. We believe that the key to dealing with today’s socially distracted, high performing, extremely competitive workforceand the bad behavior that they may display, can be summarized in one word: communication!

More than any other generation of workers, this group craves attention, but must also be made to understand that the needs of their employer must be their first priority. Turn what could be an employee with “bad behavior” into a “high performer” by:

  • Getting to know them one-on-one;
  • Learning what they want/need in order to succeed;
  • Setting clear performance expectations; and
  • Establishing ways to convey acceptance or rejection of their work.

Social/Digital Media Workplace Trends

Five or six years ago, the greatest negative exposure to employers was the misuse of email by employees. Many workplaces today still restrict the use of social media and what some call online “distractions” by their employees. Social/digital technologies represent a fundamental shift in how business is evolving. Employers need to keep up and have clear up-to-date policies to minimize liability.

As the equipment used in workplaces continues to evolve — laptops and smartphones are now common — more forward-thinking companies are embracing social networking sites and blogs. They are used for branding, client development and service, research, recruiting and to improve employee engagement while facilitating multi-office or virtual workplaces. As more companies turn to web-based social media applications, employees will be more likely to use these technologies while “on the clock.”

In a recent Cisco company blog, it was reported that the Manufacturing Leadership Council released a survey stating that “13 percent of manufacturing executives expect to digitize their design/production processes, and social media tools represent an important component. By 2023, that percentage will rise to more than half (53%).” The blog continued, “Manufacturers want to tap into valuable customer opinions, preferences and desires. They also want to encourage collaborations between employees, partners and suppliers in order to create better end products.”

All this sounds progressive, but employees’ use of social media can pose risks for the employer, such as: Sharing confidential company information; disparaging the employer and co-workers; or posting embarrassing videos recorded in the workplace.

Regardless of whether the employee posts at home or during work hours, employers may face legal liability when the employee misuses those platforms; so what’s an employer to do?

Be sure to have a social media policy in your handbook and warn employees that monitoring will occur. The policy should address: Illegal or inappropriate web-based activity; criticism of supervisors, clients or co-workers; posting distasteful photos; and calling in sick and then posting activity or information that is contrary. Reinforce that the employee has no reasonable expectation of privacy when using company equipment while on company time or when addressing company matters while engaging in social/digital activity, and that disciplinary will be taken for violating the policies.

Ted Szaniawski is founder and Principal of HRGroup, a provider of Human Resource support services, including hiring practices, compensation programs, talent development and more. For additional info, or to suggest a topic for a future article, please email: [email protected].

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR is President & Principal Consultant of MJ Management Solutions Inc., a strategic partner of HRGroup, serving emerging businesses in the areas of HR compliance and support.

About the Author

Margaret Jacoby

Margaret Jacoby, SPHR, is President & Principal Consultant of MJ Management Solutions Inc., a strategic partner of HRGroup, a provider of Human Resource support services, including hiring practices, compensation programs, talent development and more. MJ Management Solutions offers a book, “Practical Tools to Manage Costly Employee Turnover” and a “tips and Tools” newsletter. Learn more at