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For That Unprofessional Employee, Be Direct

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Posted on Wednesday, July 5, 2023
By: Hailey Heimbach
Categories: General

For That Unprofessional Employee, Be Direct


Professional behavior in the workplace is a learned skill. In an era of communicating in 140 characters or less and the encouragement of "clap back" responses, it's not unusual to see some young employees struggle with communication as they enter the professional workforce. Although your younger team members may have the skills and tech-savvy to complete job duties and be used to communicating online, this doesn't always translate to workplace-appropriate behavior, verbiage, and communication. Transitioning from a part-time job to the first steps in their career path can be challenging for many young adults.

As a manager or business owner, you may feel that workplace professionalism is self-explanatory. But, if you find yourself frequently frustrated with an employee who spends time chatting on social media, having friends swing by your workplace to "visit," or not understanding some of the unwritten rules of office behavior, then you need to take direct action.

Posit Direct Feedback as a Learning Opportunity
When you note that an employee needs guidance and mentorship on professionalism – and this can apply to older employees as well as Gen Z hires – it's best to tactfully address this one-on-one. You'll grow frustrated if you drop hints about inappropriate behavior and it doesn't change, or if you wait and hope that your employees will figure it out themselves by noting how their co-workers act in the office.

Instead, specifically, identify the behavior you want to change. For example, using too-casual verbiage in work emails, including slang, text abbreviations, or emojis, is unprofessional. Address this with your employee and then have them take a brief professional written communication seminar. Or, if you have trouble with an employee having friends or a significant other drop by to visit during work hours, address it directly. Tell them it may be ok for a friend to join them on their lunch break, but otherwise, the workplace is for work, and visitors aren't permitted.

Embracing a Teachable Moment
You may find that your employee may not realize what's expected of them. For example, if you have someone who is on their phone frequently, they may not realize how they can better use "downtime" to be more proactive on tasks or projects. Be explicit about your expectations and specific, not vague, so if you do need to start a disciplinary action, you have specific things to address.

When you specify what behavior is inappropriate, be sure to provide examples of behavior or communication methods that are important. Remember, you're using this as a teachable moment and a chance to mentor a new professional, not a conversation about a new hire getting into trouble. You hired your employee for their skills, and now you have the chance to train them on the soft skills and workplace etiquette they need to succeed. You may even frame your discussion that way, saying, "I'm concerned that your unprofessional behavior is hindering others from seeing the skills and talents you bring to the table."

Bottom Line
Effective managers don't rely on hints, and they certainly don't have a "wait and see if things get better" attitude toward problems employees. If you have someone in the office behaving unprofessionally, take them aside privately and address it promptly. You aren't doing them any professional favors by allowing them to continue office gaffes.

Tagged:General, Information, Chamber, Tips and Tricks

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