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3 Tips for Stopping Bad Behavior in the Workplace

Lena J. Weiner, for HealthLeaders Media, May 5, 2014

The NBA acted swiftly to fine and ban for life a team owner accused of making racist comments. What can you do about bad behavior among employees in your hospital or health system?

Krishna Payne, director of equal employment opportunity and HR regulations Menninger Clinic, a psychiatric hospital in Houston, TX, remembers confronting a loudly sexist physician at one of her previous jobs.

"I think women should be at home raising kids, not working. You shouldn't be working, Krishna!" he chided her when she confronted him. Once she made it clear his comments would no longer be tolerated, he tried to poo-poo her concerns.

"Oh, I'm just an old dinosaur," he groaned in response.

His response might sound familiar to anyone following the saga of Donald Sterling, principal owner of the NBA's LA Clippers. He was recorded last month making racist comments in what may have been the capstone on a long history of bad behavior. The NBA reacted quickly and decisively, banning Sterling from the organization for life, and fining him $2.5 million, and in the process sending a strong message that racism will not be tolerated.

The Clippers scandal is an unpleasant reminder that racism, sexism and other forms of bigotry can still find their way into unexpected places—even workplaces populated by highly paid professionals.

While the powers of most HR leaders don't quite match up to the muscle of NBA Commissioner Adam Silver, HR leaders must use what powers they have to send a strong a message to their employees who cross the line. Here are a few tactics:

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