Handling Bad Behavior At Work

524416_rotten_apple Our manners tell people a lot about who we are.  When they are bad they speak volumes to the people we encounter.  When it comes to interacting with people who either you work for, with or encounter at your job dealing with bad manners  can be very difficult.

I was reminded of this the other day in our medical office.  A patient was angry about a bill they received.  They proceeded to verbally attack my front office assistant with slanders about how we run our business, to doctors make too much money and this is what is wrong with our system. The more that she tried to explain to him why he owed the more this man, went off about why do doctors think they should make so much money, he was a computer technician and his job was just as important.

When I heard this I realized that no matter what my assistant said, she was not going to get anywhere.  So I stepped up to the counter and said “Good morning, my name is Tina, I am the office manager and I will try to help you.”  Immediately he stopped, regrouped and directed his attention toward me.

The switch helped, but did not resolve the problem totally.  He still didn’t like the fact that his insurance company had a deductible or the fact that he had to pay.

I gave a heads up to the back office of this man’s bad behavior as I did not think it was over so that they could be prepared.

I was correct, he did not stop and he not only went on and on to the back office assistant but also to the doctor.

What did help was that we (the office staff) all helped one another buffer ourselves as we encountered this badly behaved person.  Which as we all know we will encounter again.  When you work with the public this is a given.

There are three things you can do to help when people are behaving badly;

1. Remain objective, do not make comments back that could cause you to look unprofessional,  just keep them on track as to what the main point of your encounter is.

2. If they are over the top, you may need to ask for assistance from a supervisor to step in and help handle the situation.  Or if you are the supervisor step in at the appropriate time.  Sometimes I have not had to say anything but just having someone else stand there will cause them to calm down.

3. Lastly be compassionate, which can be difficult when handling someone who is behaving badly, but remember there usually is an underlying reason for it.

By maintaining a professional attitude in handling the situation you can walk away from it knowing that the problem is not yours.


6 thoughts on “Handling Bad Behavior At Work

    • Well at least you are witty, sometimes I try to say something that I think will cause them to stop and say, “gee that makes sense and stop their nasty behavior” and I actually make thinks quite worse. I have found tht not saying anything until they are completely done and then let a long silence take place before I speak has helped, they almost seem to get nervous when there is silence and tend to calm down some.

  1. Excellent post Tina, you make some very thought provoking points there. It is so difficult to deal with people that seem unreasonable, especially if that is part of your job (I’m guessing that the police and medical profession are trained in that). Asking the person how you might be able to help them is often a good start as they want to know they are being heard and understood more than anything.

    • Hi Stu, you are correct in stating that it helps to ask how can I help you. There are two reason that I can see, one being that when you ask this question the person has to stop and think, which may calm them down (no promises about this) and the second is that you are letting them know that you are willing to listen and help. No matter how many times I have encountered an angry or unreasonable person, it still takes me by surprise. Thanks for the comment

  2. the worse is when customers think they are right and you have to take respoinsiblity for their error… the old rule.. the customer is always right. le sign =p

  3. You are right about that “C”, that is a tough situation. Sometimes it just isn’t worth getting into a “spitting match” with a customer, it really depends on what the situation is. Have a great weekend!

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