Consequences for Hurtful Behavior

consequencesWhat a loaded subject.  But, it really is simple.  Bad or wrong behavior needs effective consequences. What is bad or wrong behavior?  Simply defined it is when a person’s actions, words or behavior hurt themselves and/or others.  Obvious examples are, but not limited to, lying, cheating, stealing, bullying, abuse (all kinds), breaking laws/the rules, and disrespectful conduct. If Bobby is caught cheating on his 3rd-grade spelling test he is mostly hurting himself. If Susan, a wife and mom, is in an adulterous affair, she’s hurting herself, her husband, their children (even if they don’t know about it), her affair partner’s wife and children. The ripple effects could last generations.  If Tom hangs up on a customer he hurt not only the customer, but the company culture, the employees and himself.  So, what are appropriate consequences?  I have a simple definition: whatever gets the perpetrator’s attention so they won’t do it, again. This is different for each person and each situation.

The hard part about consequences?  There are three parts, actually.

      1. Confronting the offender.  Many people, I would venture to say that most, are afraid of conflict. But, you need to find a way to get over that discomfort and vexation.  Not confronting someone over slight or egregious misconduct will cause you tremendous frustration and aggravation which eventually leads to unresolved anger.  As much as we’d like it, people can’t read our minds and often don’t even know they upset you. Some may even think they got away with something.  Even if they could read your mind, they would probably bungle “fixing” it because they don’t know what you need.  So, accept it that you need to talk to the perpetrator.  If the idea of confronting them sends you to an apoplectic state, then you need to find a thoughtful intermediary (pastor, rabbi, priest, wise friend, boss, therapist, co-worker, etc) to help you bring this issue to the forefront.  If a conversation, even with help, is still overwhelming, consider writing a letter.  Or draw a picture. Or write a screenplay.  Anything that will get your point across in a respectful way so they can hear you.  If they don’t respond or get defensive you have a bigger problem than the recent behavior issue.  And yes, that needs to be addressed, too. 

 

      1. The punishment needs to fit the crime.  An appropriate consequence for Bobby cheating on his test is to have him print or write in cursive his misspelled words 100 times each.  An inappropriate consequence is not allowing him to go over to his best buddies’ house for his birthday party.  There’s no relation between the offense and the punishment. That’s what we call in my house, “taking away Christmas.”  Also known as a knee-jerk, punitive reaction.  Not smart, thoughtful or effective.   SIDEBAR: Taking away a friend’s birthday party invitation is appropriate if the offense included hurting another through words or physicality.  If your employee hangs up on a customer, then the employee is either fired or no longer talks to customers for an established period of time.  Yes, it is probably burdensome to the other employees, and to you, but that caustic conduct cannot be tolerated. You’re defining the culture and the expectations you have of your employees. In the long run, your company and your customers will appreciate it.

 

    1. Sticking to your guns after meting out a consequence.  If you say, “No sleepovers till next month.” Then no sleepovers till next month.  If you say, “You will not answer the phone for 30 days.”  Then make it 30 days.  No exceptions.  That’s why it is very important to be thoughtful about the punishment.  Make sure you can carry it out. It is OK to say to the offender, “I need to think about this.  Give me X hours and I’ll get back to you.”  Then get back to them with the appropriate consequence.

Hopefully, the situation with an adult is an “event” rather than a character defect (more than once). If the latter, you need to seriously consider severing ties with that person.  Children are not little adults.  Please take age development phases into account.  For example, most children go through a phase where they lie/embellish.  You must call them on it, each time, so they learn lying isn’t acceptable behavior.  But, just because they lie more than once doesn’t mean they’ll end up in state prison.  Relax.  

Live, Love and Serve,

Annette de Lancey Giacomazzi

 

 

 

 

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