It was after midnight, and my friend discovered that he had left his cell phone in his car. He went out to the hotel marking lot to retrieve it and noticed a man standing next to a car nearby. The man was holding a large wrench upright and lowered his arm when he saw my friend.

My friend opted to confront this gentleman.

“Is that your car? What are you doing?”

The other man said, “Nothing,” before running to a waiting car which sped away after he jumped into it.

What would you have done in that situation? It is tough to decide at a split second, and indeed safety should be considered. (Thankfully, in this case, my friend was not hurt.) While street crime is rampant in many places, it is still relatively rare to witness a crime in progress.
It is different in business. Sadly, it’s all too common to see dysfunctional and disruptive behavior at work. Every day, we see rudeness, bullying, psychological aggression and more. Studies such this one have found that workers see these things on a regular basis, and 13 million workers have reported EXPERIENCING it regularly–even weekly!

How do those workers respond to what they are seeing or experiencing? Does your company make it easy to respond in the right way?

An organization constitution, where a company has formalized its servant purpose, values and behaviors, strategies and goals, makes it easier for witnesses to engage with disruptive players in an effective way–a sort of, “We don’t do that here” mentality.

When you define values in behavioral terms, you make the “rules of engagement” very clear. For example, if you state that you expect each team member to treat others with respect every moment of every day, you have a basis by which to handle disrespectful behavior.

When this clarity is missing, however, and the expectations are not clear, the issues become muddy, and there isn’t a standard by which to address them.

Going back to the story of my friend, he wrote down the license number of the getaway car and immediately reported it. The police came and took a report.

He told me, “I didn’t know if the guy was going to hit me or what, but I couldn’t let him break into that car.”

I said, “I’m proud of you for doing the right thing in the face of many unknowns, and I’m glad you’re safe.”

Do you make it easy for your workers to do the right thing?

S. Chris Edmonds is a speaker, author, and executive consultant. He shares insights on organizational culture, servant leadership, employee engagement, and workplace inspiration.

He writes books and articles and records podcasts.

In his free time, he’s a working musician with the Brian Raine band in Denver, CO.