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Disruptive Behavior



Disruptive behavior in the workplace creates some of the most difficult problems for supervisors and coworkers.  All Coast Guard units require employees to keep their comments, statements, utterances, and behaviors within certain broad boundaries.  There may be variation in what management considers appropriate or acceptable behavior in the workplace, depending upon the work environment and the prevailing practice.  Failure to demonstrate appropriate behavior in the workplace can prove disruptive to operations and provide the basis for discipline up to and including removal. 

Examples of disruptive behavior include:

  • Grooming, Hygiene, and Problems with Odors and Fragrance.  Issues like body odor, bad breath, and offensive fragrances are all drains on employee productivity.   An isolated incident may not be enough to cause a disturbance in the workplace.  Disruption in the workplace for this scenario may appear through health concerns of coworkers, increased absences by coworkers, complaints from customers, and a decrease in office productivity.    
  • Disrespectful Language and/or Conduct.  Disrespectful language is unacceptable and not conducive to a stable working atmosphere.  Supervisors are entitled to expect their employees to conform to certain accepted standards of civil behavior and decorum.  Examples of disrespectful conduct includes making insulting and demeaning statements; using angry, hostile tones; berating staff and colleagues in front of others; and shouting, throwing things or slamming doors when displeased.  A continuing pattern of such speech and conduct can be disruptive to the orderly function of the workplace, as well as stressful for those who are exposed to it.
  • Bizarre Remarks and/or Conduct.  Bizarre remarks and/or conduct is disruptive to the workplace.  Examples of disruptive behavior that fall under this category are strange, curious, odd, outlandish, peculiar, singular, unusual, and perhaps irrational statements or conduct.  Supervisors should be cognizant of inappropriate reactions to criticism of job conduct or performance, persistent complaining about unfair treatment, outbursts of anger with foul language, door slamming,  and interrupting meetings with inappropriate comments.  These actions are especially problematic when the behavior is out of character for the employee or a reasonable person.  ·
  • Threatening Conduct.  Threats of violence against supervisors and coworkers are inherently disruptive and adversely affect the efficiency of agency operations.  Threatening behavior is an individual's threat, either overt or implied, to commit an act of physical aggression or harm at the workplace, such as threats to cause bodily harm or death to another person (including stalking, bullying, or other abusive or aggressive behavior) or threats to commit sabotage, destroy, damage, or deface real or personal property located at the workplace.  Supervisors should refer to COMDINST 5370.1A, Workplace Violence and Threatening Behavior, for additional guidance.

Failing to address disruptive behavior can be a steady drain on morale thereby decreasing productivity and leading to high staff turnover, which can further degrade work quality.  At the extreme, disruptive behavior can undermine safety, create hostile work environments and even generate dangerous work related interactions and encounters.

Disruptive or inappropriate behavior may be a warning sign of underlying issues affecting an employee’s health and well-being.  Supervisors are encouraged to inform an employee about the Coast Guard’s Employee Assistance Program (CGSUPRT).  CGSUPRT is a voluntary, confidential, counseling, assessment and referral service provided for employees and their family members who need help with personal, family, or job-related problems that may be affecting performance or work-related conduct.

Supervisors should contact their servicing CG-124 Specialist regarding any disruptive behavior in the workplace and taking appropriate administrative action to address the conduct.