Every workplace has a leprechaun: this employee loves to crack a joke, play a prank and make their coworkers smile. Research shows these types of employees actually have an important place in the workplace: humor can improve productivity, wellbeing and team dynamics.
That said, there are inappropriate times to crack a joke. When joke volume or content begins to have a negative effect, it’s time to draw some lines.
There are ways to keep distracting behaviors at bay, without squashing the employee’s personality. If the employee’s behavior is all in good fun, affirm the ways in which their humor, creativity or smarts add to the team. Then, set expectations about where and when banter, sarcasm and offhand comments are acceptable. At the beginning and end of the workday, when catching up with teammates? Sure! During a meeting with the CEO? Probably not.
Some leprechauns are out to wreak havoc. These employees fool around and drag other teammates down with them. They likely do not mean to be malicious but end up derailing the team more often than they should.
Get to the bottom of the situation and find out why they are acting out. It may be that these employees are under-challenged or bored and are in need of new projects to redirect their energy. They could also be on the other end of the spectrum and experiencing burnout. Burnt out employees can be negative, irritable and distracted, and need their manager’s support.
Chasing the pot of gold
Then there are the leprechauns after the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, and they’ll do anything to get it. These employees are out for themselves. Whether throwing teammates under the bus, taking credit for others’ work or cutting corners, they want to win at all costs, and are willing to do whatever it takes to get there.
This kind of behavior must be nipped in the bud to protect others on the team. Call out inappropriate actions and lay out consequences for continued bad behavior. Then, embrace the strengths. These employees are clearly driven, competitive and success-oriented, so take advantage of these qualities by creating positive outlets, whether it be starting a team competition or granting them new responsibilities.
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