6 Rules to Help Employees Change Negative Behavior

bossEd Muzio, CEO of Group Harmonics, offers regular business advice in a segment entitled “At the Whiteboard” on Bnet.com.  In one segment he shares tips on how managers can help employees change their behavior with 6 easy rules.  Following his advice can help you approach employee improvement in a genuine, non-threatening way.

Before he begins, Muzio shares an acronym to help you easily remember the 6 rules: Crazy Corporate People Just Love Acronyms.  Here are the steps represented by each letter in his acronym, CPJLA:

1. Current state

First you tell your employee about the current, ineffective behavior.  The description of the behavior should be short and fact-based.   This avoids a judgmental and threatening tone that can frustrate and even frighten your employee.  For example, you can accommodate this rule with the statement, “I notice that you’re consistently arriving to work at 9:30 in the morning instead of 9.”  The statement is purely factual and only acknowledges your awareness of that specific behavior.

2. Change

Next you state the change you would like to see.  Again, be short and sweet.  Do not lessen the impact of your request by injecting any unnecessary emotion into the discussion.  Consider something simple like, “Would you come to work by nine from now on?”

3. Pure

It’s tempting to reduce possible tension is this conversation by averting your employee’s attention to something more positive.  While that tactic is understandable, it diminishes your attempt to change undesirable behavior.  Avoid softening your request with phrases like, “I think you’re a good employee,” or “You have a good work ethic.”  While those statements may be true, they’re more powerful when they accompany a genuine compliment of positive behavior.  Otherwise they ring false.

4. Just before

You should approach your employee before the anticipated behavior is to reoccur.  For example, if you notice that an employee makes inappropriate comments during staff meeting, the best time to address this is before the next staff meeting rather than after.

5. Limited

Whatever behavior you’d like to see changed, it should be limited in scope.  When you inundate your employees with long to-do lists of behavioral changes, they feel overwhelmed and will have difficulty focusing on modifying their performance.

6. Ask for feedback

You should call your employee in after some time to provide him/her with feedback (for example, “I’ve noticed that you’ve been very punctual these past three weeks”).  Ask how the employee feels about his/her performance and see if there’s anything you can do to assist in continued improvement.

As a manager, your job is to help your employees achieve their full potential.  This won’t happen if you don’t ask them to improve their behavior when necessary.  While this may require additional time and energy, it will pay off in the end with a strong and vibrant staff.

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Muzio, Ed.  “At the Whiteboard.” Bnet.com