Workers all take action on the job. They may collaborate on a project with colleagues, type reports, or take care of tech problems in the field, for example. Work behavior refers to the tasks employees do on the job and also the ways they act at work.
There are 2 aspects to work behavior: the outward actions workers take and the attitudes behind them. How employees feel about their jobs will influence how they behave.
For example, a worker who is unhappy at work may be unpleasant when working on a team project. An employee who is happy at work may engage fully with the same project and go above and beyond to do a great job. The tasks completed are the same, but the work behavior is different because of the emotions involved.
What Are the Different Types of Work Behavior?
There are different ways to classify work behavior. The field of organizational behavior uses the following 4 categories:
- Job performance refers to how well workers complete their job tasks. It can be influenced by their abilities, susceptibility to stress, personality, and other factors. Examples of positive job performance include meeting deadlines and completing quality work. Examples of negative behaviors include being inattentive to detail or not completing tasks fully.
- Organizational citizenship is the willingness of an employee to go above and beyond to support others on the team. Factors such as seniority, personality, and relationships at work can impact how willing a worker is to help others. Positive examples include welcoming a new team member or taking part in cultural events at the company. Negative behavior can include taking credit for someone else’s work or refusing to help a worker who doesn’t understand a work task.
- Absenteeism is how frequently an employee is absent from work. Workers may struggle with work-life balance or health challenges, and this may affect their attendance. They may be late for work or even be no-call, no-show employees. Positive behaviors include taking vacation time as appropriate, but showing up for work on time and focused.
- Turnover refers to the willingness of a worker to leave their job. Companies are more likely to have a high turnover if their employees feel stressed or unhappy with their compensation or their roles. Poor onboarding can also contribute to this.
Negative behaviors can include quitting abruptly, especially without giving notice. Positive behaviors include good communication with managers about a worker’s long-term plans at the company.
How Does Personality Affect Work Behavior?
According to the American Psychological Association (APA), our personalities are the long-term traits made up of our “interests, drives, values, self-concept, abilities, and emotional patterns.” Our personalities inform how we see the world and drive how we act. It’s no surprise that personality shapes work behavior, too.
Imagine 2 employees, Jim and Andy, working at the same tech company. Jim’s personality is introverted and open-minded. He likes to avoid conflict. Andy, on the other hand, is highly competitive, extroverted, and aggressive.
If these teammates ran into a problem on a project together, Andy could potentially lash out or even want to quit.
Since he’s competitive, he might not want to help Andy or ask for help himself, lest that be seen as a weakness. Jim, on the other hand, could be tempted to avoid conflict. This could lead to absenteeism.
It’s unfair to judge employees based on their personalities. However, understanding the dynamics of different personality groupings can help you make better choices about roles within teams.
The best way to understand how personality specifically impacts work behavior is to look at what’s called the Big 5. This is the theory that 5 broad personality traits will predict how people feel, think, and act. Each person has each of these traits, to a lesser or greater degree.
- Openness. This trait includes insight, creativity, imagination, willingness to try new things, and curiosity. Open people may be more willing to take risks and may have many interests. People with low openness may feel happier with routines and may not want to problem-solve outside their areas of expertise.
- Conscientiousness. This trait is about levels of responsibility, productivity, organization, impulse control, and thoughtfulness. Highly conscientious employees may plan ahead and will be sensitive to how their behavior impacts others.Workers with low levels of conscientiousness may not like schedules or close management. They may put off tasks and might need more support, such as casual check-ins, to complete work on time.
- Extroversion. This refers to how happy and excited someone is to be around others. An extrovert gets energy from group work and may not work well alone. A more introverted person may get overwhelmed by spending time with others.
- Agreeableness. This trait involves kindness, trust, compassion, and respectfulness. Workers with high agreeableness may work well on teams because they’re good at cooperating and are empathetic. Employees with low agreeableness may show a lack of sympathy or may even be unpleasant or uninterested in others.
- Neuroticism. This reflects how someone responds to stress and potential problems. Workers with high neuroticism may experience moodiness, anxiety, and even depression.
Employees with low neuroticism will be more resilient and stable. They may be better able to focus on tasks because they may be more optimistic.
You’ll have many personalities within your organization. The key is to understand the traits your workers have and to place them in the right roles, with the right colleagues, and with the right resources—so they can thrive.
A highly conscientious worker, for example, might do well in some finance or science roles. They may benefit from strong structures, such as the use of checklists. If a worker has high levels of neuroticism, providing a wellness program or suggestions for tackling stress can be useful.
Why Is Work Behavior Important?
Work behavior can impact several things in your organization:
- It influences the quality of work. Workers who display positive work behaviors may be putting more effort into their work. This will improve performance.
- Work behavior affects your bottom line. When workers go above and beyond and display positive behaviors such as leadership they can be more productive and get more done. This can improve your revenues and profits.
- Work behavior can impact employee morale. Negative work behaviors such as gossiping or disruptions create stress for workers. When workers show good organizational citizenship and are friendly and welcoming, it creates a better place to work.
- It can protect you from lawsuits. Taking a stance against bullying, harassment, and other negative behaviors may reduce your risk of a lawsuit.
- It can improve your brand. Customers appreciate workers with great attitudes and work performance. It creates a better experience for your clients.
- Work behavior can impact your ability to attract and retain talent. Positive work behaviors make your organization a great place to work. A culture of excellent performance and willingness to lend a hand can help you hold onto workers.
How Can You Improve Work Behavior at Your Organization?
You can improve work behavior by creating an environment where positive behaviors come naturally. Here’s how to do that.
Communicate with workers
Communicating and building engagement with your team helps them feel “seen.” It will give you the opportunity to address certain employee behaviors, such as the use of sarcasm or abruptness. It will also help you notice if anyone on your team seems unhappy or unmotivated, so you can act on these issues before they start to affect behavior.
You can use a platform like Connecteam Work Chat to communicate with your team securely or to create one-on-one chats with employees. No one has to share their contact information to chat, which makes interactions more secure.
Define the behaviors you want to see
If you’ve never explained what you expect, chances are your workers will decide for themselves what’s appropriate. They may base their behaviors on what’s worked in the past or what they prefer.
Instead, create a document that outlines expectations. Consider your industry and what’s desirable at a company like yours. If you’re a law firm, for example, your communication and behavior styles may be more formal. If you’re a creative agency or film company, more casual behaviors can be the right fit.
Reward the behaviors you want to see
Once your organization has made expectations clear, you can offer employee evaluations. Feedback about performance and behavior helps you and your employees set goals and work to be better.
By the same token, if you see workers making an extra effort, reward them. Employee incentives can be targeted to encourage certain types of behavior, such as collaboration or increased productivity. When you reward the best behavior in the workplace, workers will want to emulate that work approach to get their own rewards and recognition.
Model positive work behavior
Senior leaders and managers can also be valuable resources for work behavior. When they model positive attitudes, employees get a clearer picture of how to meet expectations.
With this aim, leaders should work on continuous self-development. This may mean reading books about emotional intelligence, leadership, and communication. Or, it may mean working with a coach to address issues such as anger or frustration.
If workers are held to a high standard but leaders routinely display poor behaviors, this sends a confusing message. It could also be detrimental to trust. You need leadership buy-in and good examples from the top.
Target unwanted behaviors
Some organizations develop strategies to target specific unwanted behaviors, such as:
- Lack of productivity
- Passive-aggressive behaviors
- Disruptive behaviors
- Inappropriate dress
- Aggression and bullying
When considering the types of workplace behavior you want to track, think about your pain points. If you are noticing a problem like high turnover, you may want to identify and weed out the bad behaviors causing it. If things are going well, encourage creativity, leadership, and other positive behaviors.
Survey workers to track possible problems
Unhappy workers may act out. They may not feel comfortable reporting problems to managers or others. Yet, over time, unhappiness can start to impact behavior and work performance.
A platform like the Connecteam Surveys app lets you create anonymous surveys. You can use these to find out if there are any issues in the workplace. You can also ask whether your teams are seeing behaviors that make them uncomfortable.
You may already have a training program at your organization to teach workers and new hires how to do their jobs well. Your training could also include education about work behaviors. For example, if a specific dress code is required, your employee onboarding is a great way to show workers what you expect.
Training can also be an excellent way to give employees resources on issues such as bullying or sexual harassment in the workplace. Training sessions can show teams what these negative behaviors look like and how they can use language to make everyone feel comfortable. Workplace training can even show employees what to do when they spot negative work behavior like this in the workplace.
Work to improve morale
Employees may be better able to exhibit positive behaviors and thrive in the workplace when they feel empowered. There are several ways you can build strong work morale:
- Make sure employees have everything they need to do their job without frustration.
- Create work deadlines and work expectations that are reasonable and don’t cause added stress.
- Be quick to praise and offer encouragement to workers.
- Include everyone in discussions and social events at work, including deskless and remote teams.
When workers know and trust each other, they’re better able to collaborate in the workplace. They can also work more cohesively. It’s easier to display positive workplace behaviors, such as kindness, when you’re working with people you know and like.
Create opportunities for workers to socialize and practice social skills. You can do this by hosting in-person or virtual workplace events. You can also throw parties to celebrate federal holidays and other special days.
Work Behavior: Shaping Your Organization
Work behavior refers to the actions workers take and the attitudes that influence them. Appropriate, positive workplace behavior can improve your workers’ performance. It can also improve your interactions with customers.
What’s more, it can help you create a better workplace where talented employees want to be. To do all of this, you need to create the conditions that make the best work possible, and you need to define and encourage positive behavior.