What are disruptive behaviors, and why is it vital to identify and eliminate them in your organization? Disruptive behaviors have significant correlations with poor teamwork, low job satisfaction, greater emotional exhaustion, and increased depression. The result? A weak organization that produces poor outcomes. In this episode, Patrick Veroneau discusses the disruptive behaviors you need to watch out for in your organization and how you can eliminate them. You’ll also discover what behaviors your organization should practice to reinforce strong relationship bridges within your team.
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How To Identify And Eliminate Disruptive Behaviors In Any Organization
We’re going to talk about disruptive behaviors and in the past couple episodes or posts as well, I’ve mentioned a study that was put out there in regards to disruptive behaviors and a scale that was developed as it relates to healthcare. Although we’re going to talk about healthcare-related disruptive behaviors, in my experience over the past decade, I will say that the disruptive behaviors that have been identified as being negatively impactful in a healthcare environment are certainly relevant to other industries as well. What’s important about that is that the same disruptive behaviors can be experienced in one industry, they can be eradicated by the same methods as well. That’s really what we’re going to talk about. Not only what were the disruptive behaviors, but also how do we eliminate these disruptive behaviors from happening within these organizations?
The first part of this is to talk about an article that was published in the Joint Commission Journal on Quality and Patient Safety, it was 2020, it was published in January 2021 and it is volume 46, pages 18 to 26. The title of this is “Associations Between a New Disruptive Behavior Scale and Teamwork, Patient Safety, Work-Life Balance, Burnout, and Depression.” The background of this was basically to say disruptive and unprofessional behaviors frequently occur in healthcare and adversely affect patient care and healthcare worker job satisfaction. These behaviors have rarely been evaluated at a work setting level, nor do we fully understand how disruptive behaviors are associated with important metrics such as teamwork and safety climate, work-life balance, burnout, and depression.
The objectives of this study were to use this survey tool that had been presented to healthcare workers across the US healthcare system, and it was aimed to introduce a brief scale for evaluating disruptive behaviors at a work setting level. It was looking at investigating associations between disruptive behaviors, as well as other validated measures for safety, culture, and wellbeing. When we look at the results of this, one or more of the six disruptive behaviors that I’ll mention were reported in almost 98% of the workplace settings. Disruptive behaviors were reported in similar frequencies by both men and women and by most healthcare worker roles.Appreciate people for who they are. Click To Tweet
Disruptive behavior climate was significantly correlated with poor teamwork climate, safety climate, job satisfaction, and perceptions of management. It also was correlated with lower work-life balance, increased emotional exhaustion, known as burnout, and increased depression. What’s important to note here is, when we look at a P-value, P-value in this study was 0.001 in terms of validity, which is very important. The conclusion of this paper that was printed was that disruptive behaviors are common, measurable, and associated with safety culture and healthcare worker wellbeing.
The authors went on to say that this concise, disruptive behavior scale affords researchers a new, valid and actionable tool to assess disruptive behaviors. What’s interesting is this study is based on work that was done back in 2008, a survey that was done. They asked healthcare providers in regards to not only how often had they experienced disruptive behaviors in their workplace setting, but also what impact that had on patient safety. I think the most concerning one of all that I remember reading of that study was where they asked providers, “What impact do you think disruptive behaviors have had as it relates to patient mortality?” Twenty-seven percent of the respondents of that survey suggested that they believed disruptive behaviors had some impact on patient mortality, which to me is mind-blowing.
What were the six disruptive behaviors that were identified? The first was listed as when an employee turned their back on another person before that conversation was over. That was the first disruptive behavior. The second disruptive behavior was hanging up the phone before a conversation was over. The third was bullying other people. The fourth was trying to humiliate others publicly, and obviously, those are pretty loaded, both bullying and trying to humiliate others publicly. When I think of public humiliation, I often think of gossiping, but that’s probably where I’ve seen this the most. What happens is somebody talks about somebody else, spreads a rumor, all to make themselves look better at the other person’s expense. The fifth disruptive behavior that was mentioned was around making comments with sexual, racial, religious, or ethnic slurs. The last one was showing physical aggression, for example, grabbing, throwing, hitting, or punching. Obviously, those we see much less frequently, although throwing is probably the one that would be seen the most.
When the prevalence of each of these was evaluated by the researchers, what they found was the prevalence for bullying was 31%. The prevalence for turning their back before a conversation was over, was 37%, hanging up the phone on somebody before the conversation was over was 27%. Publicly humiliating somebody else was almost 29%. Making comments with sexual racist or ethnic slurs was almost 22%, and showing physical aggression was about 12%. Those are the disruptive behaviors that were identified.
When we look at it from a standpoint, even though this was related to healthcare, what they looked at was what’s the correlation between disruptive behaviors? What they found was there was a significant correlation when we looked at those six disruptive behaviors around poor teamwork climate, safety climate, job satisfaction, perceptions of management, lower work-life balance, increased emotional exhaustion or burnout, and increased depression. We talk about this from the standpoint of healthcare. I can tell you certainly from my own experience when I look at disruptive behaviors, those are ones that I would say that without a study being put in place in those areas, I would say those are the ones that I see very much in line with what’s seen in healthcare. Also, from the standpoint of what happens to the organizational climate when that happens. I would say many of those things are still the same. Poor teamwork climate, job satisfaction, perceptions of management, work-life balance, increased emotional exhaustion, burnout happens outside of healthcare, as well as increased depression.
How do we address this? We see here, the evidence continues to mount in regards to what we should probably just expect as common sense. That when we behave in the wrong ways, obviously they have a negative impact, and now simply it’s about research validating that common sense. There are two areas that I think are very impactful when we look at eliminating or reducing disruptive behaviors. On a team, first off, because I think that’s where it needs to happen, I’m often reminded of a quote by Einstein, where he said, “The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil. It will be destroyed by those who watch evil and do nothing.” I truly believe that as the same with disruptive behaviors within an organization.Listen with your eyes, ears, mind, and heart. Click To Tweet
Unless people work as a team and decide not to stand for that as a group, then there can be 1 or 2 individuals that get to go rogue, or run outside of what everybody else wants to see. There are conversations that I’ve had where individuals have said, “I’d love to see this go away, but I’m afraid to bring it up to this person because I’m afraid that the target is then going to be put on me.” It’s the feeling of the person feeling, “I’ve got nobody to back me up on this.” It’s like going up against the bully, knowing that you’re on your own, nobody else is going to protect you, and that’s a difficult place to be and that’s why it’s so important for a team to unite.
One of the things that I use in a lot of the work that I do is The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Pat Lencioni. As an authorized partner with DISC and Wiley Publications, we do an assessment based on the five dysfunctions of a team, but also incorporating personality work into that too. The benefit of that has is, one, the team gets to identify on levels that were identified in Pat Lencioni’s work on The Five Dysfunctions of a Team. What level of trust do we have as a team? How do we approach conflict as a team? How do we approach commitment as a team? How do we hold each other accountable as a team? How focused are we on effective results as a team, as opposed to individually just being concerned with ourselves? When a team is able to do that, there’s an opportunity now to identify what are the problems that are going on within that group.
On top of that, what I also use is what I call the CABLES Blueprint that’s based on six behaviors that create stronger relationship bridges within a team. That is the way that we look at it. We can think of this just like the Golden Gate Bridge that one three-foot cable is made up of about 30,000 individually wrapped cables. When we think about this in terms of behaviors on a team or building stronger relationships with on that team, each one of the behaviors in the acronym of cables is representative of a type of behavior that will build a stronger bridge. Part of that is to get rid of things such as disruptive behaviors. The first one is around Congruence and Consistency, and having teams or individuals identify how important it is to have consistency on the team.
We often hear talk about values. If one of our values is around respect or integrity or collaboration, disruptive behaviors really can’t happen if we’re congruent to the values of collaboration or teamwork. The next one is around Appreciation, that’s the A in the CABLES, and that has two components. One is about understanding biases, appreciating other people for who they are, and all of the biases that come into play, and we all fall victim to unconscious biases. We would deny many of them and that’s why they’re called unconscious biases, but when we understand the negative impact that biases have, we can start to do something about that and build stronger teams. The other part of appreciation with the A in CABLES is Accolades. It’s about recognizing people for their contributions, building a healthier environment because of that.
The B in the model CABLES that we talk about is around Being for others, but also Belongingness. The Being for others component is about my effort to try and provide more benefit than I’m gaining from this relationship or this interaction on this team. The other part of that is around Belongingness, and we know the impact that belongingness has, whether it’s at school or in the community, or at home. We’re pack animals. We need to feel a sense of belongingness. When we don’t have that, our behaviors probably are not at their best. If I’m leading a team or part of a team, I have a responsibility to try and provide an opportunity where people feel as though they belong to this group, they’re part of the team. When we push somebody outside of the team, gossiping, bullying, whatever it might be, we ostracize somebody. We know the negative impact that has on an individual. Burnout, depression, could be as well acts of aggression. It gets to that level. That’s why that’s so important.
Listening is the next behavior that we talk about in terms of building a stronger relationship bridge. That is our fourth cable. I would say listening is like a superpower, that to be able to truly and authentically listen to somebody else is going to provide an environment where it will naturally start to eliminate disruptive behaviors. Listening with our eyes, listening with our ears, listening with our mind, and listening with our heart. If I’m listening with my eyes, I’m looking for things like body language. I’m trying to listen to somebody based on how they’re acting. If I’m listening to words, then I’m listening to the tone of voice, the words that they use, truly trying to listen. If I’m listening with my mind, I’m constantly assessing the conversation for is what they’re saying, really what I’m hearing.
I’ll give you an example. I was speaking to somebody that was talking about a challenge that they were having with their boss. The challenge came up in terms of the boss, the manager, said to the individual, I’m not going to argue with you about this. I knew both sides of this. The manager’s intention to say that was meaning, “I’m in your corner. I’m not going to argue with you about this. I’m with you on this.” The employee took this to mean when the person said, “I’m not going to argue about this with you,” was like, “This conversation’s over. We’re not going to talk about this anymore.” You can see those aren’t the same things at all, but how it was interpreted was completely different from how it was meant to be received. That’s why listening with our mind can be so important to question, “Is that really what I think that person meant?”
Listening with empathy is the last part of this, which is trying to listen in a way that we’d want to be listened to. The next one is empathy by itself, and empathy is so important. Empathy requires a lot of vulnerability for us to be in a place where I’m truly going to try and place myself in your shoes and see things from your perspective. It is one of the strongest behaviors that we can have and oftentimes gets misinterpreted as weak, when in fact it is the strongest.
The last one of the CABLES behaviors is around clear expectations, and when we think about this as it relates to disruptive behaviors, if we have clear expectations around what is acceptable behavior within this team, then we already have a guideline of how we’re going to treat each other. The other part of clear expectations or specifics is accountability. It’s that when people don’t behave in ways that are in alignment with what we have said is appropriate behavior, then there needs to be accountability for that or an ownership for that. Oftentimes that’s where this slips. There are the bad behaviors and they’re ignored or, “I hope I don’t have to deal with this right now,” when in fact we do. We’ve got to deal with these things because it’s the only way that we’re going to be able to extinguish disruptive behaviors and the negative impact that they have is by standing together.
This is part of that being a team. There’s a commitment that we all make to each other as a team. These are the rules of the road that we’re going to run by. When we do that, when we can provide that environment, we almost set peer pressure for each other to behave in ways that suffocate out disruptive behaviors. That’s the only way that this truly happens. I’ve got to do my part but it can only be done as a team if we’re going to get where we need to go effectively. I hope that this information that I’ve given to you in regards to the research around disruptive behaviors and their negative impact, as well as some solutions and behaviors that create an environment that suffocates out disruptive behaviors, is helpful.
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