How should you deal with a rude employee?

Alan Price – Chief Operations Officer

June 06 2016

No business wants to tolerate an employee being rude or disrespectful – especially if they’re at risk of damaging your reputation. But before you jump in and pull them up for it, make sure you understand any possible underlying cause and deal with this tricky issue in the right way... Sometimes people are simply a little bit rude, but sometimes, it can be a result of other factors – and you need to identify which it is that’s causing your employee’s behaviour before you take action. Mood swings can be a sign that there’s something going on with the employee that lies deeper than simply a short fuse, or alternatively, a symptom of a medical condition. Medical conditions such as diabetes can cause someone to be irritable and argumentative, and this could be the reason for the employee’s conduct. The only way to get to the bottom of this is to open up communication channels with them – and if it is a disability that’s behind their demeanour, you need to be extra careful how you deal with them, because they’re protected under discrimination legislation. Steps to take The first thing to do if an employee is acting inappropriately is to arrange a meeting – this should be informal and not in the tone of a disciplinary meeting, as that’s not the purpose of your conversation. If their work performance isn’t in question, there’s no need for discipline in that regard. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Ask to speak to the employee in a private setting where you can speak openly and without interruption.
  • Tell them that you’ve noticed their behaviour and ask if everything is ok.
  • Ask questions to try and ascertain the welfare of the employee, and be prepared to be sympathetic if they divulge any personal information.

Whilst it’s important to have an open mind, it may be the case that this employee’s behaviour is not actually due to any external influence. In that case, you’re entitled to treat the issue as a conduct matter and remind the employee that they’re expected to act professionally whilst at work, and show respect to their colleagues and clients. At this stage, an informal word to them should be enough to let them know that the negative impact of their behaviour on the workplace has been noted and should not continue. Employee assistance If you provide your employees with access to an assistance programme, remind the employee that they can use it whenever they feel they would benefit from speaking to an impartial counsellor. Employee assistance programmes can offer anything from a sympathetic listening ear to face-to-face counselling sessions if necessary. If the rudeness continues despite having spoken to the employee, then you can attempt to improve their behaviour by:

  • Issuing a warning where appropriate
  • Initiating a disciplinary procedure against them
  • Building on live warnings for future instances of misconduct

At each stage, consider the circumstances of each occasion of misconduct; who was on the receiving end of the rudeness? If it was someone in more senior position to the employee, you could deal with it as insubordination. If you need any further advice on dealing with rudeness in the workplace, please call our 24 Hour Advice Service on 0844 892 2785.  

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