As a small-business owner, you cannot control many factors influencing your employees' behavior when they're away from the workplace, but you can control their behaviors while they're at work. You can set standards for employees' individual behavior and for how employees act in groups. You'll also need ways to motivate employees to comply, so they'll be less likely to deviate from your expectations.

How It Works

Consider what influences employee behaviors and decisions. Parents, teachers, other adults and peers condition people to follow rules for individual and group behavior. Rules may be spoken, written or implied. Rules for behavior vary by setting. When employees make decisions, they must reconcile their basic needs -- such as needs for food, water, safety and pleasure -- with what interests them and with the social rules they've learned. When employees join your organizational culture, they learn expected behaviors from you most of all as the leader they need to please to advance in their careers.

Creating the Environment

Employees must learn the norms of your organizational culture. Help them by providing an environment with clear expectations. Some expectations apply to all employees, while others specifically relate to a particular position. The socialization process begins with the job announcement and extends through the hiring process into new employee orientation and performance management by an employee's supervisor or manager.

Role of Management

If your business is too big for you to supervise everyone, put employees into management who can motivate others. These people will need emotional intelligence, including being able to bond with employees and motivate them to perform. Managers and employees can help you define rules for dressing, acting, speaking, communicating electronically and representing the business in public. Make rules for meetings, team projects and other joint activities. If groups set the rules themselves, they can take more ownership of them during group interactions.

Change Management

As the senior leader, get employees on board with eliminating patterns of behavior that aren't working. This begins with deciding what a new pattern of behavior will be and continues with replacing the old pattern of behavior with the new pattern. Get people to adopt the new pattern of behavior along with you. Soon, other employees will follow your example.


You cannot control some factors influencing employees -- economic pressures, family pressures, current events, employee health and mental well-being and competition from other firms -- but you can control the organizational culture and influence how those factors impact work performance. Help employees find a balance between what motivates them and what you expect. Provide extrinsic rewards for employees who follow rules -- recognition, promotions and bonuses -- and discipline employees who don't follow behavior standards. It's not OK to overlook prohibited behaviors because employees are doing what's best for business. You must consistently enforce behavioral standards so employees will take the rules seriously.