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Behavior Issues on the Job? These 4 Health Problems Could be a Cause.

By Heather Kerrigan | Sep 28, 2020

The workplace behavior issues of just one person can affect the entire work environment. When members of a team are difficult to work with on the job, their attitude is likely to spread, creating a hostile workplace that introduces challenges not just for managers but for the rest of the team as well.

While it's easy to dismiss these individuals as having a bad attitude or simply being lazy, there may actually be an underlying issue causing problem behavior. To help members find healthier behaviors and coping mechanisms, it's important for the union to understand the challenges members face and work with employers to support those with behavior issues.

4 Causes of Poor Performance

Behavior issues are often the result of underlying problems that may not be readily apparent to a manager. Conditions known to negatively impact work performance include:

  1. Sleep apnea. This chronic disorder causes moderate to severe sleepiness during the day. It has the potential to make members moody, lower their ability to problem-solve and reduce their communication skills. The American Journal of Managed Care reports that it can also raise their risk of accidents.
  2. Undiagnosed adult ADHD. Workers with ADHD may be absent or tardy more frequently than average. When on the job they might make more mistakes than usual, appear disorganized or procrastinate. This behavior can lead to increased conflict in the workplace between members and others in the workplace.
  3. Anxiety. Anxiety disorders are the most common kind of mental illness, according to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. Anxiety often appears in the form of nervousness and irritability, and members with anxiety may have trouble sleeping at night and concentrating during the day.
  4. Hyperthyroidism. An overactive thyroid can cause a variety of physical symptoms. At work, it may be the culprit behind lower concentration, higher absenteeism, sleepiness and low motivation.

How to Support Members

Knowing that poor performance isn't always the member's fault makes it all the more necessary for leaders to provide the right resources and support. Addressing the underlying cause is a constructive way to promote productivity and satisfaction on the job. As a union leader, you can:

  • Find the cause. Talk with the member to discover the root cause of the condition. Then, educate yourself about the signs and symptoms.
  • Communicate openly. Be honest about the performance or behavior issues you're aware of and give clear, consistent feedback to set expectations.
  • Focus on strengths. Identify members' strengths, and use them to help the member and their employer develop a solution and reasonable accommodations.
  • Promote benefits. Provide resources, including information on accessing doctors or support groups. Regularly remind workers of insurance benefits that can cover their care.
  • Show respect. Don't dismiss the member as difficult, and don't assume the situation will resolve itself.
  • Check in. Follow up periodically to make sure the member gets what they need.

Behavior issues aren't always the result of a bad attitude. You can support members by opening up a conversation, identifying and addressing the underlying cause of poor performance, and making sure the entire membership has access to the resources they need. These small actions can improve the work environment (as well as the union environment) and help members succeed on the job.


Heather Kerrigan started her career in journalism at Governing magazine, reporting on state and local politics and policy, with a specific focus on public workforce, environment, health care, education and technology issues. Prior to co-founding River Horse Communications, Heather offered freelance editorial services to a variety of outlets, including serving as volume editor and lead author for SAGE Publications' Historic Documents series and editor-in-chief of The Kanter Journal. Heather is the author of the book Retire Rich With Your 401(k) Plan. She holds a bachelor's degree in journalism from The George Washington University.