How to Be a Leader at Work by Making Bad Behavior Good

By August 16, 2012April 11th, 2020Developing Leadership Skills
How to Be a Leader at Work by Making Bad Behavior Good


“The real leader has no need to lead—he is content to point the way.”

~ Henry Miller

When the law for paying for plastic bags came out, many people were opposed to it. Eventually the movement to reduce your carbon footprint caught on and overly critical people stopped complaining when they realized that it wasn’t too hard to carry your own bag–what were once negative behaviors transformed into positive actions.

Can the same conditioning be applied to the workplace? Is it really possible to be a leader at work and change workplace bad behavior into good behavior?

Some people might think, “Sue, she’s never going to stop complaining,” or “Max, well he’s a tough one, why even bother?” or “Who cares? Eventually, that’s going to get them fired.”

However, if you want to be a good work leader, you need to be able to tackle bad workplace behaviors and bring about positive change.

Here are two stories that show you how smart managers helped curb common workplace bad behavior issues quickly and effectively:

  1. Dealing with inappropriate jokes and comments.

    Bob was the perfect example of the jokester who seemed to have all the latest “off” jokes up his sleeve. Female employees seemed to avoid him like the plague. Bob’s manager, Raj, liked Bob; he was a good worker but his comments and jokes (which seemed to be funny at first) were getting a little out of hand. Raj called Bob into his office to have a chat and provide feedback. When Raj confronted him, Bob looked like he’d been hit by a truck. He didn’t realize his jokes were way out of line; he just thought he was being funny.It’s important to realize that some bad behaviors may not be intentional at all, and that in Bob’s case, his jokes were a way of attracting attention and getting noticed. When Bob realized that it did get him noticed, but not in the way he wanted, he stopped. Today, Bob still continues to use his witty sense of humor at work, but knows not to overstep his boundaries with coworkers.

  2. Curbing gossip before it gets out of hand.

    Everybody knew Patricia as the “gossip monger” of the office. Some avoided her; others flocked around her, curious to know about the latest office romance or some other hot gossip story. Amy overheard Patricia spreading a rumor about her that wasn’t anywhere close to being true. Their manager, Jackie, sported an open-door policy. Amy came in to discuss the issue with Jackie.Jackie called Patricia in to discuss how her behavior was causing others to have a negative impression of her. It didn’t matter how well she performed on the job, her off-putting behavior was curbing her advancement and stalling her from getting ahead at work. When Jackie mentioned that gossiping in the workplace could stop her from getting promoted–or worse, get her fired—Patricia got the message.Jackie encouraged Patricia to use her communication skills to work at building positive relationships at work that would help her rebuild her reputation.

Smart managers are true leaders at work; they know that gossip can bring down a team or an entire department. If employees see that managers are approachable and take inappropriate behavior seriously, they’ll feel a lot more confident about speaking up.

If you want to learn more about bad workplace behavior, here’s an article on 5 bad office behaviors you must avoid at all costs. However, you should realize that not being “bad” might help you keep your job, but it won’t help you get ahead. For that, you need to work on developing your leadership skills to gain influence at work.

Whether you’re a manager or an employee, my latest book, Getting Ahead: Three Steps to Take Your Career to the Next Level, is packed with hands-on tools to help you advance and be a leader in the workplace.   

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