Employee Conduct: What You Need to Know

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12 Jul 2018

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Managing employee conduct is part of the smooth running of your business. Here are a few steps that you can take when staff behaviour gets out of hand.

Managing an Employee with Bad Attitude

As an employer, you have a duty of care to all staff. Employees with poor attitude can be aggravating to colleagues, and in some cases, their behaviour can even border on bullying. If one employee is bullying another, it's your responsibility to take action.

If you think that one of your employees has breached the standards of behaviour that you set out in your policy for employee conduct, or another employee lodges a grievance against the first employee, you'll need to investigate these allegations. On the other hand, what do you do when employee behaviour is difficult or disruptive rather than offensive?

Don't ignore employees who are being unkind or hostile to others. Don't indulge their behaviour. The longer you allow an employee to behave in a negative way, the hard it'll be to tackle their conduct. Some examples of behaviour you might already be overlooking are:

  • Frequent cursing or swearing.
  • Confrontational attitude towards colleagues or management.
  • Poor work habits.
  • Tardiness.

For behaviour such as in this list to constitute misconduct, it must be frequent and severe.

Conduct a Face-to-Face Meeting

And ensure you have evidence, such as lateness statistics or a letter of complaint regarding their conduct. Rumours or gossip aren't enough. Meetings to discuss conduct can be awkward, even confrontational.

Try to remain calm, and don't engage in an argument no matter how intent on creating one your employee seems. Include another member of senior management in the meeting, such as your employee's line manager. Or, if you have one, an HR manager.

A third party creates room for mediation and suppresses the chances of a one-one-one argument.

Severity of Misconduct

Many examples of employee misbehaviour can constitute misconduct. From sleeping at work to workplace violence. It's important to treat employee conduct with the deliberation it deserves.

For example, if someone is falling asleep at their desk, it may be that the employee has a sleep disorder, or is suffering from exhaustion due to their heavy workload. In such a case, have a private discussion with your employee.

Discuss their sleep situation and brainstorm adjustments that both parties could make. For example, you might look into introducing a green room, where employees could take short power naps (as long as they make up the time).

And, your employee could try to increase the amount of sleep they're getting each night or even speak to their doctor. On the other hand, behaviour such as workplace violence or workplace affairs can lead to employment tribunals. Not to mention potential financial and reputational damage.

Disciplinary and Grievance Procedures

So, to deal with all of these issues and more, ensure you have well-defined procedures for disciplinaries and for grievances. Split your procedures into two: one for employee performance; the other for their conduct at work.

Communicate your procedures and your policies. Give staff a copy of all important documents, including the employee or company handbook, when they join the business. Whenever you update a policy, email your staff to inform them.

In addition, remind your staff of your procedures before you hold a disciplinary or grievance hearing. You should try to conduct an informal meeting to resolve an issue as early as possible. But if this fails, you should follow up with decisive action.

Begin with an investigation to establish the facts of the case and speak with any witnesses. After this, you should invite the alleged offender to a hearing. Following the hearing, you must decide on the outcome.

If you decide to discipline the employee, you must follow a fair procedure as set out in your company's policies handbook. You must also allow your employee to appeal your decision if they wish. Acas has a wealth of information about fair and reasonable procedures.

If an employee makes a claim against you that results in an employment tribunal, evidence that you followed Acas's guidelines may support your case.

Expert Advice About Employee Conduct

If you're having trouble with employee attitude or conduct, contact Croner's experts on 0808 145 3374.

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