How to deal effectively with unacceptable employee behaviour

Written by marcia moore, mssw
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How to deal effectively with unacceptable employee behaviour
Protecting employees with good policies and procedures in place is important. (Getty Creative)

Unacceptable employee conduct comprises a number of behaviours and sometimes volatility levels. An employee may be having a bad day and snap at co-workers and bosses. Another employee may be going through problems at home and is late for work or absent frequently. There have been instances where some employees felt that it was acceptable to purchase personal items on the company credit card. The good news is that proactive measures taken by the company can be helpful in preventing an escalating incident.


  1. 1

    Develop a company-wide zero tolerance policy against any type of hostile verbal or physical behaviours from any employee. Included in the policy should be clearly defined actions that the company will take in the event of certain exhibited behaviours. Also included in the policy should be examples of behaviours, such as name-calling, shouting or screaming, harassment and physical contact.

  2. 2

    Establish a disciplinary process that is communicated to all employees at the time of hire. Included in the process should be the procedures (methods of handling any behavioural situations), rules (specific guidelines that regulate and restrict certain behaviours) and responsibilities (who enforces the procedures and rules). Policies should be consistent (applied equally), necessary (reflect current company needs), understandable and reasonable (fair and fitting to the behaviour). For example, sending an employee home for being five minutes late may be unreasonable. However, unethical behaviour (theft, misuse of company funds, falsification of company documents) may warrant a suspension or immediate termination depending on the circumstances.

  3. 3

    Deal with the unacceptable employee behaviour immediately. For example, if an employee is disruptive with co-workers to the point of affecting their job performance, the situation needs prompt attention. Co-workers need to see some sort of action taken by the company to maintain trust and morale. If an employee arrives to work intoxicated, the immediate response may be to have a supervisor drive the employee home and deal with the behaviour the next time the employee reports to work. Some discipline programs are graduated with a first offence (verbal warning), second offence (written warning), third offence (possible suspension (and fourth offence (termination).

  4. 4

    Offer training to management and human resource personnel regarding disgruntled employees. There are firms that offer consulting services and workshops regarding workplace violence. Recognising when an employee's bad mood is cause for alarm and having code words in place to summon help are invaluable preventive tools.

  5. 5

    Conduct criminal background checks on new hires and call their former place of work as an extra degree of precaution and prevention. Having a new employee orientation in place may also be helpful to decrease potential unacceptable behaviours. Communicating the policies and procedures early in the employment process to new employees and refreshing the memories of existing employees may also deter unacceptable workplace behaviour.

  6. 6

    Institute an emergency backup plan with designated "safety monitors" in each department. Just as companies have policies in place for disasters and emergencies, management should be prepared for crisis situations involving employees.

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