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5 Workplace Behaviors That Are Actually Misconduct

Some 20% of American workers are helping themselves to the office supply cabinet, but in a surprising survey by Spherion, only one-quarter of those taking them actually feel bad about it. In fact, this type of employee behavior won’t make the headlines. It may even seem more an annoyance than an important workplace concern. But, some outwardly trivial employee behaviors may be more serious than you think, and with the appropriate workplace guidelines in place, companies can take legal recourse to combat them.

Here are 5 workplace behaviors that are actually misconduct:

1. Chronic Lateness

Employees that consistently come to work past the time they are expected to arrive can be terminated for chronic lateness. The expectations must be clearly articulated in company guidelines, so there is no doubt as to what time employees are expected to arrive. Moreover, the employee’s tardiness should impact the nature of the work being done. For example, if the employee is expected to open a retail store by a certain time or attend a mandatory morning meeting, chronic lateness can impair the day-to-day operations of the business as well as the performance of co-workers.

2. Unwanted Gift Giving

It may seem counterintuitive, but giving gifts to another co-worker, subordinate or manager can be deemed employee misconduct. In particular, if the gifts are unwanted but the employee giving the gifts persists, the behavior can be a form of harassment, possibly sexual harassment. For employers, it is imperative that managers and human resource professionals be particularly vigilant around certain holidays like Valentine’s Day or even around the time of the company holiday party as I pointed out in After the Holiday Party Fizz, the HR Headache Begins.

3. Taking Office Supplies Home

It’s hard to imagine that an employee that takes pens, pencils and post-it notes home from the office has done anything criminal. For a restaurant, it might be a bottle of wine or an expensive food item that goes missing. The reality is that taking office supplies or other items from the workplace is stealing and constitutes theft of company property. The Spherion survey notes that while pens, pencils, rulers and post-it notes are the most popular items to go missing, the list of objects taken by employees extends to laptops, cellphones and calculators. If it moves beyond small items, it can contribute to shrinkage, or inventory recorded on a company’s books that goes missing. The Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates that shrinkage is the fastest growing crime in the United States, and not surprisingly, in addition to it being a form of employee misconduct, it is a leading cause of small business failure 30% of the time.

4. Personal Use of Company Wi-Fi

Last year, a county clerk in Chicago used the office Wi-Fi to respond to campaign related emails, a violation of the county policy forbidding public officials from engaging in campaign-related activities while working. The ethics violation cost the clerk a hefty fine and one of his employees his job. In fact, it is not uncommon for companies to have internet usage policies in place and for personal use of the company Wi-Fi to be prohibited. Wireless internet depends upon bandwidth for speed and optimal performance, so using the business Wi-Fi for personal activities is often against company policy. To some, using company Wi-Fi for personal use is just the modern version of stealing company property; and as the case of the Chicago county clerk confirms, it can have serious ramifications.

5. Unscheduled Worker Absence

Most employers offer sick leave to their employees and have a sick leave policy that encompasses scheduled absences. Within company guidelines, employees can take and plan scheduled absences and still be paid. However, calling in sick without good reason or lying about being ill or time taken off work, is a form of misconduct. Employees that frequently miss work without notice or call in sick as a means to get a day off work have unscheduled worker absences, quite distinct from planned absences that fall within company policy. Notably, unscheduled worker absences spike around holidays and long weekends.

With systematic documentation protocols in place, seemingly minor employee offenses may start to present themselves as patterns of behavior.

For employers, documentation of inappropriate employee behavior is key. With systematic documentation protocols in place, seemingly minor employee offenses may start to present themselves as patterns of behavior. Those patterns will bolster an employer’s case should the behavior be determined to be misconduct. Without documentation procedures, a misconduct allegation could lack evidentiary clout.

HR Acuity On-Demand provides organizations with the tools necessary for a consistent documentation process. In addition, HR Acuity On-Demand has structured fact finding tools, a framework for investigations, case reports and a wealth of metrics for detailed analysis. Contact HR Acuity® or call 888.598.0161 to schedule a 1-1 demo of our award-winning technology solution for employee-related risk mitigation.

Deb Muller
Deb Muller

Deb Muller is the CEO of HR Acuity, the employee relations case management solution that companies trust to help them track, investigate, and analyze employee issues the right way.