car theftIt was after midnight. A friend had left his cell phone in his car, so he went out to his hotel’s parking lot to retrieve it. He noticed a man standing next to the car parked a couple of spaces away from his.

The man was standing near the passenger window. He had a large wrench in his hand, upraised. The man looked up at my friend and lowered his arm.

My friend confronted the man, asking “Is that your car? What are you doing?” The man replied, “Nothing,” and sprinted to a waiting car, which sped out of the parking lot.

What would you do in that situation? Would you say something – or would you walk by, minding your own business?

Street crime is rampant in many cities around the globe. It is somewhat rare for one to witness a crime in progress.

However, it is all too common for someone to witness disruptive behavior in their organizations. Patterns of rudeness, bullying, and psychological aggression happen every day.

In a 2006 study of US workers, researchers found that 41% of respondents (representing 47 million workers) reported experiencing psychological aggression at work. 15% or 13 million workers reported experiencing psychological aggression on a weekly basis.

When bullying or disruptive behavior occurs in your workplace, how do the receivers of those behaviors – or observers of those interactions – respond?

If companies have formalized their purpose, values, strategies, and goals in an organizational constitution, those agreements can make it easier for receivers or observers to engage those disruptive players in a positive way.

If values are defined in behavioral terms, the workplace “rules of engagement” – how people are to treat each other – are crystal clear. If your company’s valued behaviors state that staff will treat each other with respect, every moment of every day, disruptive behavior can be addressed more effectively.

In the absence of clear workplace expectations for performance and values, aggressive behaviors can overwhelm cooperative intentions.

To finish the story with my friend, he immediately noted down the license number of the car the man got in to and went to the hotel’s front desk to report what he had seen. The police were called and my friend submitted a police report, describing what happened.

He said, “I didn’t know if the guy was going to hit me or what, but I couldn’t let him break into that car.” I said, “I’m proud of you for doing the right thing in the face of many unknowns, and I’m glad you’re safe.”

I hope I would do what my friend did and be a good citizen.

Join in the conversation about this post/podcast in the comments section below. How well is disruptive behavior addressed in your organization?

What is it like to live in your organization’s culture? Share your experiences in my fast & free Performance-Values Assessment. Results and analysis are described on my blog site’s research page.

This research can help you refine your organization’s corporate culture. Contact me to discuss conducting the Performance-Values Assessment in your company.

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S. Chris Edmonds

S. Chris Edmonds

Chris helps leaders create purposeful, positive, productive work cultures. He's a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He blogs, podcasts, and video casts. He is the author of The Culture Engine and six other books.
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