How Does Behavior Affect Work Performance?

by Ruth Mayhew - Updated June 26, 2018
Portrait of young woman with glasses in office

Everybody has their ups and downs, but behavior can affect an employee's job performance and it can be difficult to determine whether an employee's good day actually means she will perform well or whether a bad day means her level of performance will drop. The key for supervisors and managers is to learn which employees are more subject to behavioral fluctuations that affect their performance in the workplace, and which employees seem to be able to manage regardless of how they are feeling each day.

Aloofness Can Mean High Performance

Employees who sequester themselves from co-workers or who simply want to work individually instead of being part of a team may actually perform their jobs exceptionally well. Introverts and people who prefer solitude often are described as aloof. An employee's preference to work alone may, in fact, mean that she prefers to rely on her own skills and capabilities instead of depending on others. This single-minded approach to job duties and tasks could be that employee's way of focusing on what it takes to produce an excellent work product. In a team-centered work environment, the aloof employee might be difficult to supervise. But if her manager understands her particular work style, the organization might benefit from a dedicated and fastidious employee who prefers to work independently, instead of being part of a team.

Many organizations emphasize the importance of teamwork as the critical aspect of overall job performance. In this case, the aloof employee may find it difficult to work well in a team-centered environment, or she might assume so much of the team's responsibilities, because she can do it herself, of course, that the other team members feel rebuffed or feel that their skills and expertise aren't good enough. Either way, the aloof employee's performance can suffer if she's required to function as part of a team and not permitted to work solo.

Two Sides to Gregarious Employees

When an employee is the life of the party, she might be a good fit for any workgroup because of her ability to blend into any environment and she can bring enthusiasm to an otherwise dull or unmotivated team. That said, the most gregarious team member might not be entirely focused on the job tasks. She might be more focused on cultivating working relationships that have little to do with a team-centered project. Her energies might be misguided, which require the other team members to pick up the slack or try to corral her into doing her part of the assigned work instead of allowing her to be more focused on whether everybody is getting along. On the other hand, a team member who is focused on the assigned work and on developing collaborative working relationships can inspire the team to complete its projects in a manner that impresses the manager and creates a cohesive and engaged team, which in the end benefits the organization.

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Negative Nelly Can Be Disruptive, or Not

Employees who always seem to harbor negative emotions and thoughts often are nicknamed "Negative Nelly," because they seem to never see the positive side of any situation. In the workplace, they might be the most vocal employee about unfair treatment and poor working conditions, and they may be the only ones who clash with co-workers and supervisors. An unpleasant disposition can make them the most difficult employees to work with, and they could be the lowest-performing employees in the workplace. Their view of the workplace and the people around them might be a reflection of how they see themselves, but regardless of the underlying reasons why they are so negative, supervisors and managers should recognize the signs of a Negative Nelly and listen to the employee's complaints to determine their validity or provide candid feedback so that her on-the-job performance improves or she finds another job.

Conversely, the typical Negative Nelly may have a high-performance streak actually borne out of her negative perspective. Employees who are dissatisfied with management and their co-workers may try to prove a point through mastering their job competencies so well to show that they are right and everybody else is wrong. In this case, the employee's negative behavior becomes a positive where job performance is concerned. However, where teamwork is critical to overall job performance, this is the area in which the negative employee will find the greatest challenges.

About the Author

Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.

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