Reading Employee Psychology – What Their Behavior Is Trying to Tell You

If you’re a frequent reader of this website, you’ll notice that we often speak about customers in an external sense. For example, we’re no stranger to writing content about killer marketing campaigns or changes in purchasing behavior on different platforms. But every now and then, it’s important to remember that these aren’t the only types of customer you will encounter as a business owner.

All companies deal with both external customers AND internal customers.

What’s more, they’re both important factors in determining whether your business is successful (or struggling).

What’s an External Customer?

External customers are those we talk about most often and tend to directly associate with the word “customer”. These are the people who discover our brand and take a trip through the buyer’s journey before reaching the point where they’ll strike a transactional deal with you and become a legitimate customer.

What’s an Internal Customer?

Internal customers, on the other hand, are people inside our inner circles — they’re otherwise known as employees, shareholders, or key stakeholders. These people matter because they have vested interests in your brand and often possess sensitive and confidential information about your finances and operational processes. They can either significantly boost your business by being your biggest fan or drain your company with their damaging behavior.

Why Do They Both Matter?

While it’s true that keeping external customers happy is important when it comes to profit, keeping your internal customers happy is important when it comes to keeping your company afloat.

If you’ve got that niggling feeling that something’s just not quite right in your workforce, it’s probably time for you to face it head-on. In this blog post, we discuss strange employee behaviors, what they mean, and how you can read your employee’s psychology to protect your company’s future.

The ‘Always Late’ Laborer

Behavior: These late arrivals have a problem with punctuality and taking your reprimands seriously.

Common behaviors could be taking extra-long coffee breaks, not turning up to meetings on time, or having an unusually repetitive “Monday migraine” routine that stops them from returning to work after the weekend. You might be at your wits end after seeing a picture of your employee partying just before they rang in sick… again (which is now a common form of evidence used during the firing process).

Problem: If you have a few employees who are more than slack when it comes to timings, it could be a sign that your business is hiring from an unproductive labor pool.

Sectors like retail and hospitality often turn to young student workers, for example, as they need people to work unsociable hours for minimal pay. This method can come back to bite you if you build a workforce full of people who only see your firm as a stop-gap, rather than a final destination.  

Solution: In the long-term, you should re-evaluate your recruitment process to make sure that you’re hiring a mixture of personality types. This way, your more “serious” workers in executive positions can keep candidates not eligible for internal promotion on the straight and narrow.

You should also make your expectations clear from the get-go and consider putting processes in place to incentivize punctuality and attendance. Some major firms now promote fingerprint sign-ins and dock pay for every minute past the official start point of a shift.

The ‘Disagreeable’ Dude

Behavior: These people seem to have their back up about everything, especially any type of change, growth, or internal experiment that management suggests.

Their behavior might eventually put you off holding staff meetings, asking for staff feedback, or holding training sessions. They tend to act like a poisonous plant, infecting the rest of the crop with their unproductive opinions.

Problem: This type of worker is bad for business as they can dramatically slow down big — and sometimes necessary — progress.

If they manage to gain social influence over the work group (which they often yield by shouting the loudest), they can spread negative opinions and attitudes to otherwise productive and happy workers. If your business is at a turning point, such as in the midst of a growth spurt or a rebrand, you need to act quick and assess which workers are bringing the rest of the team down with their controversial conversations.

Solution: Ridding your company of this “disagreeable” dude is, unfortunately, a slow process, as it comes down to having hired someone who isn’t a good example of a culture fit.

In the future, you should add a cultural fit assessment to your interview process to make sure that a candidate’s practical skills and personality type are a match made in heaven for your brand. In the short term, you should focus on strengthening existing relationships with individuals in your team, rewarding positive behavior, and gaining non-influenced one-on-one feedback that can be used to alter your internal processes.

The ‘Safe but Stationary’ Sort

Behavior: This worker is set to be with you in the long run and doesn’t bat an eyelid at your decisions. In other words, you can depend on them — unlike the last two worker types.

The only issue is that their work output is particularly slow, and if they get stuck, they tend to halt to a standstill, unable to use their initiative or reach out for help. These people might have the best intentions but leave their KPI feedback sheet blank. They’ll also be a whizz at tasks they’ve previously mastered, but they are quick to stumble when given new tasks to work with.

Problem: While this person provides some value when in their comfort zone, they can be slow to adjust and create plenty of teething problems at any sign of change.

The real issue begins if they start to demotivate others with their slow-coach behavior. This is made worse if their job role is positioned in a collaborative team where other employees rely on their finished product to do their job and vice versa.

Solution: You can avoid trouble with this dependable yet dependant worker by providing them with thorough training and a senior work buddy.

It might be time to update your training and development program by asking different department heads to flesh out and update your current material. If you’re struggling with key resources (like time and money), you could point your people in the direction of online training for a cost-effective way to upskill your team.

The ‘Wasted Potential’ Worker

Behavior: This worker type often shows a lot of promise in the initial interview and assessment period only to then not deliver 100% of what they promised.

They still might perform a cut above the rest of your workforce, but you’ll have an inkling that they could be trying much harder. This employee might act demotivated and do the bare minimum, and they may also draw back from social or group interactions, instead turning their attention to outside-of-work activities. If you know someone who sits in the staff room with their smartphone in hand, they may be an example of a “wasted potential” worker.  

Problem: The problem here is that this talented type isn’t properly motivated, with either some or all of their needs not being met.

Most leaders jump to the conclusion of offering a pay rise or some other form of financial incentive, but nowadays, we should know better than to offer empty benefits. Flexibility matters to the majority of individuals, and remote positions or flexible work arrangements may be what’s needed to boost your bored workforce.

Solution: Start a dialogue with these individuals about what could make them happier and more motivated at work. If it turns out that working from home one day a week will perk up their performance, you should seriously consider offering this as a workplace benefit. It’s now easier than ever to allow employees to work from home with project management tools, virtual phone numbers and other technology designed for this specific purpose.

Chucking money at this often adventurous (and sometimes family-oriented) crowd doesn’t work. In fact, you’ll end up handing out bonus checks that make a dent in your bank balance and end up with neither party feeling like a winner.

The ‘Over-Eager’ Employee

Behavior: The behavior of this worker type can get you excited in the interim and drain you when the dust settles.

While most problem employees will have you yearning for an over-eager employee to walk through the door, when this person finally arrives, it can remind you why balance is a blessing. This worker will often ask a series of never-ending questions, work when they’re not supposed to, and stick their noses in when it’s not needed.

Problem: While this enthusiasm can be endearing, it can also turn out to be dangerous if others feel they are being pushed out or if their behavior turns from cute to non-compliant.

You shouldn’t be inundated with project proposals that you haven’t paid for or receiving personal messages on a Saturday. This worker type needs to know that their input is appreciated while also being reminded of their place in the organizational hierarchy.

Solution: To get the best bits from this eager employee, you need to keep them distracted from the big picture and focused on their slice of the pie.

You should tackle this situation carefully by providing them with plenty of constructive feedback and opportunities for solo learning. By seeing this issue from a fresh perspective, you can train them to master the art of their specific job role and keep them occupied with their personal responsibilities.

Author bio: 

Rory Whelan is a communications expert with over twenty years experience in consultancy, television, media and telecoms. He writes articles frequently about the benefits of business phone plans for corporate leaders who are on-the-go and in need of increased flexibility or remote access.

Since 2012 he has held the role of marketing manager for eReceptionist, leading the product to become the favourite call management company for UK SMEs. The solution attracts a wide range of small businesses allowing them to manage their professional image whilst gaining a virtual office address and thus relieving them from a singular physical location.