“In my 20-plus years of experience in management and coaching, I've identified two primary reasons why an individual might exhibit unprofessional behavior,” says Hilmon Sorey, co-founder and managing director at ClozeLoop, a sales strategy, training and enablement firm.
“The first is the easiest to solve and that is just a lack of education, cultural awareness, or ignorance,” he says. “As we trend toward globalization and workplace diversity, creating an organization that welcomes folks from different backgrounds and cultures places the onus on leadership to ensure that everyone is afforded the best opportunity to succeed, as well as clarity around expectations in communication, collaboration, workplace decorum and even dress.”
“The second reason is a little trickier. As human beings one of our primary motivators is to seek external validation of our concept of self,” Sorey says. “The recognition we seek typically falls into two of six categories which are: Significance - that we matter, Approval - recognition, Acceptance - membership in a group, Intelligence - that we're smart, Pity - that our struggle is real, Power - that we have control.”
This common ignorance in often impersonal workplaces creates a stress that can lead to a multitude of challenges and for some people, their behavior might leak pain and dissatisfaction. The negative behavior perceived, and the understanding of it, might be more complex than perceived and judged.
“These categories are how we need others to make us feel. When one of our primary needs is not being met, we seek it,” Sorey says. “What may be exhibited or perceived as unprofessional behavior is often an unsophisticated way of an individual getting their needs met.”
“The challenge is that whether malicious, or just a habitual pattern, there are other human beings on the receiving end of this behavior,” Sorey explains. “Our truth is perceived through our own eyes not through the perspective of others. So what will invariably begin to happen is the validation that an individual seeks will either be short-lived or met with resistance which creates a hostile work environment.”
That leads to personal and organizational expenses and deficiencies.
“Hostile work environments are corrosive to culture, employee retention, productivity, and ultimately will have an impact on customers,” Sorey says.
To wisely, effectively, successfully address challenging attitudes, possibly pain driven, and unwanted behaviors, executives and managers can take certain steps that will likely prove helpful.
“Coaching is the most effective way to move the needle on behavior. However, you cannot coach an individual on something they have not been trained to do,” Sorey states. “In organizations in which I've encountered this challenge, we start with providing tools for individuals to better express their needs in a professional manner, and have a greater awareness of the needs of others.”
The process he recommends has an acronym, he says, “C.O.A.C.H.” Sorey explains the details.