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Inappropriate workplace behaviour comes in many forms. It can be defined as any behavior that creates or may create a risk to an employee’s health, safety and well-being. Examples of unacceptable behaviours include, but are not limited to:

  • Bullying
  • Verbal (or written) abuse
  • Emotional, psychological or physical violence or abuse
  • Coercion, harassment and/or discrimination
  • Aggressive/abusive behaviour
  • Unreasonable demands and undue persistence
  • Disruptive behaviour

Employers have a responsibility to provide their employees with a work environment that is free of inappropriate conduct, while every employee should be held accountable for their own conduct.

John Boardman, Director of Workplace Relations at iHR Australia, re-affirms this saying that both employees and the employer must recognise their obligations to provide a safe working environment. “This means if an employee observes inappropriate behaviour, they have an obligation to report it.” He further adds, “Under OH&S legislation, people can be individually liable for fines and so can the organisation, and they can be quite significant”.

Developing clear policies to establish a standard for appropriate workplace behaviour and enforcing them consistently sets the expectations for employees to follow. When someone ignores the standards, following a strict discipline procedure helps to correct the situation.

8 steps on how to deal with inappropriate conduct effectively in the workplace:

1. Create a comprehensive employee handbook that includes policies on behaviourial expectations and consequences for breaking those policies. Policy topics often include punctuality, using time off, dress code, employee theft and behavioural guidelines for interacting with colleagues and clients.

2. Require all employees to review these policies, sign an acknowledgement form. All signed forms should be filed into individual employee records. Provide employees with copies of policy updates as necessary.

3. If you notice a particular inappropriate behaviour in several employees, send an email to all staff members. For example, if punctuality is an issue with many employees often turning up late for work, send an email addressing the issue and reference the company’s punctuality policy.

4. Monitor and document the occurrences of the behaviour.

5. Address individual employees privately to bring the inappropriate behaviour to their attention. Provide the employee with specific examples of their negative behaviour. Highlight the particular workplace policy that the behaviour breaks.

6. Work on a plan to correct the behavior with the employee. Explain and set out your specific expectations to improve the behavior, and inform the employee what the consequences of non-compliance will be.

7. If the inappropriate conduct warrants it, follow the disciplinary action plan in the employee handbook. The course of action should depend on the severity of the behaviour, past discipline problems and the policies defined in the company’s handbook.

8. Continue to monitor the employee’s behavior after steps 6 and 7 so as to ensure the disciplinary action and plan for improved behaviour is effective. If the measures taken do not appear to help, review the plan and discipline or move on to the next disciplinary action step, if needed, to correct the problem.

iHR Australia recognises that inappropriate workplace behaviour can decrease productivity, hurt employee morale and may cost the company’s business. When the early signs of inappropriate workplace behaviour are promptly addressed and resolved, this helps companies to mitigate risks of further harm and legal claims.

iHR Australia has developed a comprehensive training curriculum to enable managers, via its Custodians of Workplace Culture and Professional and Courageous Conversations training, to effectively prevent, manage and deal with complaints related to inappropriate workplace behaviour at work. Managers play a pivotal role in safeguarding your workplace culture and with iHR Australia’s training, they will have the know-how and confidence to approach and conduct difficult conversations to address inappropriate workplace behaviour.

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