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It can happen in any workplace. Sometimes one person seems to be at the center of, or a participant in, every conflict. These individuals often wield more power than their position warrants; other employees tend to avoid them or give in to what they demand in order to avoid an argument. Occasionally a disruptive employee is even unaware of what is happening.

A surgeon at St. Sonia's Hospital noticed that while hospital policy encouraged teams to work as a unit and thereby build trust and rapport, his team was constantly changing except for the scrub nurse, a tall, tough former medic. The surgeon was frustrated about having to "teach" a new group every time he was scheduled for surgery and finally, after an operation, he asked the nurse what was going on. The nurse stepped back, put his hands on his hips, and said, "I'm the only one who can stand working with you." The surgeon was shocked and asked for more information. He eventually acknowledged that his abrupt style could be seen as demeaning and also that what he really wanted was to develop a strong team with the best reputation possible but that his style had prevented it. It took some work, and more "coaching" from the scrub nurse, but eventually the surgeon met his own interest of having a team that worked well together and even liked each other!

Most of the time there is not an ex-Marine to stand up to the disruptive individual who causes misery for everyone in the department. Then it becomes the responsibility of an administrator, a department head, or the Employee Assistance Program to do something about the situation.

But bad behavior often goes unaddressed and the excuse will be made, "Everyone is entitled to a bad day." This may be true. But when the bad day turns into a pattern of disruptive behavior or ongoing disrespect to coworkers, then a different approach is needed. Managers often move from avoiding the situation to attacking through discipline procedures, often wanting to fire the person immediately without following the progressive intermediate steps required. The reason for this is simple: these meetings are challenging.


Since replacing a talented employee is not easy or without significant financial cost, it is often worth the time and effort to address the issue head-on. While not a classic example of a case for The Exchange, the structure and the techniques of the process are still applicable, with a few tweaks. The Exchange methodology gives managers the opportunity to deal with such situations successfully.

Using The Exchange conveys the unspoken message to the entire staff that the administration cares about the atmosphere of the workplace and will work with individuals who do not follow basic rules of civil behavior toward their ...

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