Unacceptable Behaviour at Work
unacceptable behaviour

Unacceptable Behaviour at Work

International Joke Day takes place this July 1st, so it’s likely that someone somewhere will say something they shouldn’t to someone they shouldn’t say it to. How do you, as an employee or an employer, deal with unacceptable behaviour at work?

How is Unacceptable Behaviour Defined

In regular parlance, Unacceptable Behaviour can be a nebulous and difficult to define term. This is primarily due to the subjectivity of behaviour, and differing interpretations of events. In business terms, Unacceptable Behaviour is a little easier to define, as it pertains to a breach in company policy.

Wurkplace has prepared a little guide on what it is and how best to deal with it.

In our previous blog, we outlined some of the key areas of inappropriate behaviour in the workplace, including:

  • Sexual harassment
  • Verbal Abuse and Workplace Bullying
  • Aggressive or Violent Behaviour

But today, we’re talking more about the harder to define elements.

Firstly, every business should have comprehensive HR policies and procedures in place. Whether your company guidelines are handled in your employment contract or your employee handbook, they should carefully outline the behaviour deemed appropriate for the workplace. They should also outline the behaviour deemed inappropriate. Finally, they should outline the procedure that will be followed in the event of a breach of these guidelines.

If a type of behaviour is not matching your company guidelines, maybe it’s time to act. If the behaviour breaches the Dignity at Work Act, it’s certainly time to act.


Recognize It

Listen to your staff or colleagues. If they have a complaint, it is important that you listen. You should aim to facilitate a high-trust environment where concerns are listened to and acted upon. However, more often than not, you must recognize the behaviour yourself and act upon it. This could be by reporting the behaviour to your manager, your HR representative, or by tackling it yourself if you are working either of those roles.


Here are some examples of potentially inappropriate behaviour at the workplace that may go on unreported:


  • A member of the team is boasting / complaining about their salary.
  • A Customer Service member is not sticking to the script.
  • A member of staff tells an inappropriate joke to their peers.
  • Someone is sleeping at their desk.
  • A team member takes a lot of personal calls.
  • Someone is sharing inappropriate memes internally.

You might think that these examples are less egregious than the discriminatory acts outlined in our previous blog. But what if they persist?


Is it an isolated incident? Does that Matter?

Everyone has a bad day. While that may not justify discriminatory behaviour, some of the minor issues may be forgiven due to personal context. Identifying whether or not the incident is a one-off is important. Understanding your co-workers and their personal characteristics will help when identifying whether the unacceptable behaviour will happen again.

Understanding your co-workers will aid you in identifying intent. For example, a member of staff might misinterpret a passing comment. This knowledge will be helpful in resolving the issue between them.

If you consider unacceptable behaviour to be the HR equivalent of accident reporting, then you’ll realise how important identifying these issues can be. Much like if you have a small accident at work, and must make a note in the logbook, you must also make note of any unacceptable behaviour.

This is the case in all high-policy environments, such as schools and hospitals. Get to know your staff and avoid troublesome grievances.


Nip it in the Bud

The best thing to do when presented with unacceptable behaviour is to confront it immediately. This will ensure that the employee is aware of the situation and will give them ample opportunity to improve. Clarity is extremely important. Make sure that all employees are aware of the policies in place. Also make sure that they understand the actions that will be taken in the event of a breach.

This goes both ways; Allow your co-workers the opportunity to explain themselves.

If you do not address the issue, there is a chance that the unacceptable behaviour will continue. There is also a chance that the unacceptable behaviour will spread, as it can become a part of the workplace culture. For example, sharing inappropriate messages via work email, joking on the shop floor, or gossiping.


Workplace Culture

You must have proper policies and procedures in place. A positive work environment, one where people are heard and respected, is beneficial to the effectiveness and health of the organisation. This must come from the top down. For example, what do you do if someone in your employ acts inappropriately, but none of your other staff cares? Is it victimless?

This is a sign of poor workplace culture. Regardless of whether there is a victim of unacceptable behaviour, you must address it.

An initial conversation can help determine whether it’s an isolated incident or not.

If the behaviour is particularly damaging, it may be beneficial to put the employee on a Performance Improvement Plan (or PIP). This will actively engage the employee in the process and give them an outline for improvement. Or, in the unfortunate instance that the unacceptable conduct continues, a formal disciplinary action.

This is where we come in.


How HR Helps

Good Human Resources management can help embed the right practices. It can help you avoid disciplinaries, grievances and even termination altogether. This is essential for small, medium, and large enterprises who value their staff and working environment.

If you are experiencing unacceptable behaviour at work and are unsure how to deal with it, Wurkplace is here to help! We have a team of dedicated staff which provide HR services such as taking care of disciplinaries and dismissals.

We also provide a great number of training courses for staff development, including in equality, diversity, and discrimination, employee relations, communication, anti-harassment, teamworking, and effective delegation.

You can contact us by calling 0330 400 5490 or using our simple form for more info.

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