Employees behaving badly: When should HR step in?

While employees are the greatest asset of an organization, bad employee behavior can cause great liabilities

Employees behaving badly: When should HR step in?

Employees are the greatest and most valuable asset an organization has. However, employees displaying inappropriate behavior can affect the workplace negatively. If employers fail to address and correct bad workplace behavior, negative consequences such as poor morale, employee stress, damage to reputation, and employee turnover might occur.

How do you address inappropriate work behavior?
Employers should strive to provide an atmosphere wherein all employees can perform without threats of all kinds. Consider taking the following steps to minimize inappropriate behavior and diminish potential liabilities:

Identify the inappropriate behavior
Inappropriate behavior should not be subjective or questionable. Identify any behaviors that you feel are inappropriate for your workplace and give clear guidelines in your employee handbook on consequences for the behavior, up to and including termination.

Poor workplace behavior can take several forms, including the following:

  • Workplace aggression: It refers to the repeated mistreatment of one or more employees with a malicious mix of humiliation, intimidation, and sabotage of performance. Often, a bully will use rumors, innuendos, and public discrediting to create a sterile, potentially hostile work environment and may gather others to participate. The Workplace Bullying Institute revealed that 37% of American workers have been bullied at work.
  • Disruptive work behavior: It can include yelling, tantrums, bullying, displaying the need for excessive control, disregard of duty, and insubordination.
  • Being unproductive: Uncommunicative employees, as well as those who regularly miss deadlines or fail to complete assigned work will, over time, hurt the company with their inattention and laziness.
  • Gossiping: Sharing negative, often untrue or incomplete, information about colleagues or company management can create tension and distrust in the workplace.
  • Oversharing: Many people feel uncomfortable when a co-worker overshares details of their personal or professional lives. Issues such as sexual behavior, indulgence in alcohol or drugs, or conflicts with supervisors are best addressed with one’s family, friends, or a therapist.
  • Inappropriate dress: It includes anything outside of the company dress code. Employers should be very specific when discussing expectations, including skirt lengths and types of clothes and shoes allowed or prohibited on “casual dress” days.

Educate employees
Give all managers learning tools to identify what’s inappropriate in the workplace and establish a company policy for handling such behavior. Also, be clear on what work behaviors are considered illegal – not just inappropriate. Be very specific on whom to approach and what to document when these situations arise. Often, taking proactive steps to coach employees about inappropriate behavior can prevent situations that can escalate to a hostile work environment and unlawful harassment.

Ensure that employees know what behaviors are acceptable and not in the workplace. Often, situations can be avoided by announcing expectations right away. Besides, employees should be able to approach their manager comfortably about inappropriate behaviors observed without punishment. Consider instructing employees on how to report inappropriate behavior to upper management.

Set an example
Executives and management should set the tone for acceptable behavior in the workplace. It’s hard to enforce policies if leaders are not adhering to them.

Enforce policies consistently
Be consistent with when and how you enforce your policies. Workplace behaviors are a tricky subject and become even more difficult to punish when one person gets away with displaying them but another doesn’t. inconsistent discipline can lead to discrimination claims. HR should ensure that the employee handbook establishes progressive disciplinary procedures, according to Xenium.

Seek help
If behavior issues have become severe within your organization, consider seeking external help. A management consultant may be able to provide insight into your company culture and recommend improvements in the way your team works together.

How do you prevent inappropriate work behavior?
As the saying goes, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here are some ways to avoid having to deal with behavior issues within your organization, according to the Houston Chronicle:

Hire wisely. Look beyond resumes and try to get to know new hires. If possible, check references and do online searches to get a better idea of the kind of person you will be hiring.

Create a referral program. Your current employees may be able to recommend friends and former colleagues to fill roles in your organization. Emphasize that any referral should be a good fit for your company and its culture.

Implement onboarding. Many companies ignore the significance of the onboarding process. Onboarding not only prepares new hires for their roles but also provides an opportunity to clarify your expectations regarding employee behavior.

Practice transparency. If a company’s management team has a reputation for honesty and accountability, employees may be less likely to spread rumors or attempt to undermine others as a competitive strategy. Gossiping and backbiting within an office often have roots in a lack of transparency at the management level. If possible, share information about your business with employees and be aware of their concerns.

Offer support. Some bad workplace behaviors could be avoided if employees feel more comfortable discussing issues with their supervisors. For instance, an employee who has become less productive may be dealing with a personal or family crisis. Encouraging workers to speak with their supervisors before health or personal issues impact job performance benefits both them and the workplace.

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