Dealing With Serious Employee Misconduct: A How-To Guide


Employee misconduct can be defined as any wrongdoing that may result in disciplinary action against an employee.

This may involve the breaking of rules or policies at work, stealing company property, or abusing company privileges – and it always has to be done with intent to be considered serious misconduct. Since this is a problem companies face every day, it’s important to consider what the best ways to deal with it are.

1. Cause And Circumstance

In a disciplinary situation, it is imperative to always consider the cause of an employee’s behavior rather than only the circumstances surrounding it. When someone does something wrong, it may be tempting to just look at what happened and use that information to discipline them accordingly – but this may not be the best way to handle employee misconduct.

To be blunt – some people just act the way they do because they don’t care. If someone with that kind of personality slipped through the interview process, it might be a good idea to look into what can be improved in that regard. In almost all cases, understanding misconduct – what leads a person to act in such a way, is important so that you can see what needs to change in your company. Do they just think they can get away with it? If so, what can you implement in the workspace to stop giving that impression?

Were they acting out because they were unhappy with the way things are run? In this case, it might be prudent to think if their grievance has any merit. It’s easy to just chuck it all up to the employee being an unreliable person, but even if that person gets fired, working on fixing what might have contributed to the behavior on the company’s part can help prevent similar situations in the future.

2. Stay Calm And In Control

Responding in a calm, collected manner is always best when dealing with an employee’s serious misconduct.

Adding any kind of strong emotion into the mix only makes it worse for everyone involved, and does nothing to solve the real problem. There’s a certain degree of empathy that needs to be exercised when you’re punishing an employee – if they were acting out because they were unhappy with something at work, or if they have personal issues that are the reason behind what’s happening. You definitely don’t want to just start yelling, because that doesn’t solve anything and will only make the other person angry.

In a disciplinary situation, you need to be as calm as possible – this is not the time for ego or pride, it’s the time for working on finding a solution – both for the employee in question and for the company.

3. Deterrence Factor

When thinking about how to act on what your employee has done, consider the other people who work for you too.

You need to weigh what would be the appropriate measure when it comes to this case in particular, but also how the consequences you choose for this staff member will affect others on your team. That means that if the misconduct was serious, regardless of why it happened, sometimes termination is the only appropriate response for the company. Gossip spreads around any office, and you’ll have a much harder time explaining the extenuating circumstances than showing a firm hand at the start.

If you’re considering suspending an employee, whether it be for misconduct or some other reason, keep in mind that you always need to follow your company’s policy – and if there isn’t one then make sure to create one now.

4. Team Meeting

If you have an employee who is causing problems, it might be a good idea to schedule a team meeting. Establishing open communication between employees and bosses is always a good idea, especially if it means you can diffuse an awkward situation.

Think about the meeting as basically like an intervention – if one of your employees has some kind of problem that they’re causing issues in the workplace with, then gather everyone together to talk about how it’s affecting them both on the team and on a personal level. The difficult part about dealing with serious misconduct is that it’s not always a problem the employee has control over – sometimes it’s an addiction or mental health issue, and you’ll need to be able to handle it from there.

On the other hand – even if you’re the best employer in the world – your company is not a family and if one person is hurting the business then they need to be let go. Using a staff meeting to let everyone know what’s going on, and to hear how they feel about the situation is important. However, it’s also a good moment to make your stance on certain issues clear and to reiterate that you expect a certain level of professionalism from your staff members.

As a final note, it’s better to take preventative measures than to deal with situations that have escalated to the point of serious misconduct. Taking appropriate action from the start can help you avoid those types of problems. Establishing a clear policy about what’s acceptable and not at work, as well as what the consequences will be if those rules are broken is key. Developing company culture is an ongoing process and one that you should be constantly working on.


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