Sandra Bledsoe

Improper Conduct: Everything You Need to Know

Improper conduct or misconduct at the workplace refers to any inappropriate behavior of an employee. Such behavior could harm employees and the work environment. Improper conduct can be both minor and major. Sexual harassment, bullying, insubordination, or unethical relationships fall under improper conduct in a workplace. It could also be deliberate or unintentional, like as such of microaggressions and unconscious bias.

Any misconduct at the workplace needs to be resolved immediately, ensuring the safety of employees. It is the responsibility of the business owner to implement a proper work environment. In case of misconduct, the organization loses the trust of its employees. This could result in mental health issues, performance issues, and even the resignation of the employee. 

In a 2018 study, 35% of workers feel they have been harassed at work. Of these, 41% were women. Improper conduct at the workplace, however, is not limited to gender. It can occur in any hierarchical organization. For instance, an employee refuses to cooperate with their superiors or coworkers. Or an employee breaches confidential information. All these examples fall under the umbrella term workplace misconduct. 

 

What is Improper Conduct at the Workplace?

Improper conduct at the workplace can be defined as any behavior or action that can have a negative impact. Workplace misconduct can affect the mental health of employees. It can also hamper productivity and performance. Moreover, improper conduct at the workplace can pose a serious threat to the company.

Improper conduct at the workplace can be serious or simple. Simple misconduct at the workplace involves any behavior which is committed intentionally, and the perpetrator refuses to rectify their mistake. Most simple misconducts involve a cut on employee benefits after their dismissal.

Workplace misconduct can further be divided into general and gross misconduct. General misconduct is unintentional and does not have a lasting impact on the work or people. For instance, a salesperson who was rude to a customer commits general misconduct. However, if the customer is threatened with a physical altercation, it becomes gross misconduct.

 

6 Examples of Improper Conduct at the Workplace

Professional misconduct includes insubordination, breach of confidence, unethical relationships, and harassment. The rules for improper conduct at the workplace vary with every company. However, some common examples of improper conduct can be used as a frame of reference.

 

  • Theft or fraud 

Defrauding customers or the company or stealing from them is serious misconduct. It threatens the internal security and the image of the company. For instance, a bartender could charge extra for some commission. Or an employee could be embezzling funds from the company. In any case, it counts as a punishable offense for the employee.

 

  • Workplace harassment or discrimination

The top 7 most common forms of harassment in the workplace are related to gender, sex, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, and age. In a 2018 survey, 50% of the employees had faced discrimination and harassment due to their sex and gender. Harassment at the workplace can include verbal, physical, sexual, and visual harassment. It is important to address each of these terms as many go unacknowledged.

 

  • Substance abuse

Substance abuse of any kind, such as drugs or alcohol, threatens the reputation of the company. Moreover, it can also become a threat to people if the inebriated employee gets violent. 

 

  • Unethical relationships

Unethical relationships can act as a threat to the company and employees. It can happen when a superior starts dating a junior employee. This could be a potential harassment claim. For instance, subordinates might feel pressured to accept unsolicited advances. It could also result in partiality towards employees. Many companies stipulate in their policies that an interoffice relationship will be allowed when the matter is disclosed to HR.

 

  • Insubordination

Insubordination is usually a minor offense. This could include poor performance, refusal to cooperate with employees, or offensive behavior. For instance, if an employee skips important meetings frequently without any reasonable excuse. 

 

  • Confidentiality breaches

Whistleblowers are a threat to company security and privacy. Confidentiality breaches are especially serious when healthcare is involved due to patient confidentiality. However, it is still common in the workplace. For instance, if a salesperson uses the contacts of the company for personal motives.

 

How to Address Improper Conduct at the workplace

Any workplace misconduct requires immediate action. The following steps can be taken to address workplace misconduct immediately:

  • Fast action: Dealing with misconduct must be a priority. If the company fails to take action at the right time, it might be complicit in the misconduct. Moreover, it could delay justice and lead to serious consequences for the employee and the company.
  • Investigate the matter: A quick investigation of the offense can speed up the process of justice. Moreover, it is easier to record any evidence.
  • Communicate and consult: Consult with superiors before taking action. Communicating with the parties involved also gives better insight into the matter.

 

How to Respond to Improper Conduct at the Workplace 

  • Warning: A warning is given during minor offenses. The warning might be verbal or written. It can act as a reformative measure for the employee.
  • Suspension: Suspension of employees is an effective response to misconduct. The employee can be briefed about their suspension during the investigation.
  • Probation: Supervisors can monitor employees in case of any offense. The probation period gives the employee another chance to improve and is reformative. It can last from 60-90 days and may be extended depending on the performance of the employee.
  • Fireable offense: Improper conduct at the workplace can be a fireable offense and the employer may dismiss the employee. However, the employer has to document the terms of dismissal, which is why it is important to have watertight policies in place.

 

How Corporate Training helps with Workplace Misconduct?

Transparent communication, watertight policies, and performance reviews can help prevent workplace misconduct to an extent. However, it is impossible to prevent workplace misconduct completely.

Improper conduct at the workplace can be difficult to tackle for companies. These are highly sensitive issues better delegated to experts and counselors. There is a burgeoning need for sexual harassment, compliance, and DEI training in companies. 

While conflict resolution can temporarily solve the problem, improper conduct is pervasive. It can result from psychological complications or prejudices. It requires learning and unlearning. Corporate training institutes are expected to reach $417.21 billion globally at 9.4% CAGR by 2027. 

The need for training employees has been recognized globally. It is a necessity, especially in the wake of social media activism. Any form of corporate training such as diversity, equity, and inclusion, or sexual harassment training can help introspect past and present behavior. It helps to learn positive behavior and unlearn toxicity. 

Improper conduct at the workplace is a threat to the company’s security. Moreover, it can result in expensive lawsuits and lead to defamation of the company. Certain misconducts can indeed be handled by a superior – for instance, a confidentiality breach. However, improper conduct extends to a violation of rights. To protect the interests of one’s employees is the company’s responsibility. A company can be held accountable for any discrimination. Addressing such instances increases the value of the company and improves its brand image. 

 


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