Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Managing quirky behavior in the workplace

The nonprofit Partnership for Public Service and The Washington Post’s On Leadership site produce the Federal Coach, hosted by Tom Fox, director of the partnership’s Center for Government Leadership.

The goal is to “engage, inspire and learn from you, the federal worker, whether you are a new hire, a contractor or a manager at the highest level.”

Most people know how to behave in the workplace, but there are always outliers who are aggressive or quirky, or who have never figured out the acceptable social norms.

Recently, a colleague shared a rather bizarre story of a federal employee who would burp in the face of a colleague or manager when given a task he didn’t want to perform. Even though the employee’s job performance was fully satisfactory, people complained about this behavior and saw it as mocking and a sign of deliberate disrespect.

Although this seems like a scene out of the television comedy “Parks and Recreation,” uncomfortable issues arise in offices across the country every day.

For example, a search on the phrase “body odor in the workplace” on Google yielded more than 85,000 articles and blog entries. From improper attire to offensive e-mails, inappropriate office behavior comes in many forms.

Unfortunately, there are no hard and fast rules on how to deal with awkward and embarrassing situations. Even though it can be tricky, you need to confront unusual behavior quickly, because it may be hurting your team’s morale and ability to do work.

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