How to Deal with Staff Misconduct

by Carter Toni

No manager wants to come face to face with handling a staff misconduct claim. However, it happens frequentlyand it does need addressing through formal channels. Whatever the misconduct, there is always an expectation of some form of repercussion and investigation to protect both the employee and the reputation of the company. So, if a staff member is accused or suspected of misconduct, how do you deal with it? The guide below has some essential answers.

Misconduct in the Workplace: What Is It Exactly?

Misconduct in the workplace covers a range of actions. If something happens in the work environment that is in direct conflict with expected behaviours and codes of conduct as per contracts and company guidelines, this is misconduct. It can be anything from an unprofessional interaction to a full-blown criminal event and that is where the minor vs gross misconduct scale comes into play.

Minor Misconduct

Minor offences are deemed as actions that are not acceptable in line with practices but have not caused any negative reputational repercussions to the wider company. This is a more informal route and doesn’t necessarily lead to a hearing or investigation if both parties are able to agree on a resolution course of action. What is classed as minor misconduct?

  • Not following health and safety regulations
  • Foul language infront of clients or similar
  • Ignoring work-based instructions
  • Frequently failing to meet deadlines
  • Consistent lateness
  • Not paying due care and attention
  • Dressing inappropriately
  • Causing disruption in the work environment

Gross Misconduct

So, those are the little things, but gross misconduct is a bigger deal and a whole other category entirely. If gross misconduct is deemed to have happened, it will be because there has been noticeable damage to the reputation or relationship either of the company or with clients. This will always demand a formal investigation and could lead to the complete termination of the contract if the employee is found guilty. What is classed as gross misconduct?

  • Misusing alcohol or drugs at work
  • Being racist
  • Any form of harassment
  • Accessing inappropriate material online on company property
  • Damages to the property
  • Found to be bullying other employees
  • Any form of physical violence
  • Theft

Making a Safe Space for Reporting Misconduct

For employees to report misconduct, they have to know what the procedure is and be able to feel safe enough to speak up. It is not enough to leave it unchecked. If misconduct is happening and another employee fails to report it, they are implicating themselves by their inaction. To avoid unease, training should be carried out for everyone on a regular basis on how to report misconduct. Employees should be made aware of how to report it and who to report it to and where their involvement ends. Why would employees need such a policy? Because they may be less likely to report misconduct if there is no protective policy in place.

Investigation Stage

For all cases of gross misconduct, HR must become involved. There should be a meeting with equal representation which may or may not lead to a disciplinary hearing followed by some form of consequence. This is all known as the investigation stage.

Outsourcing for Resolution

Where there is no HR department or it doesn’t feel appropriate to utilise the in-house team, investigating staff misconduct can be taken elsewhere, for instance, outsourcing. To find a resolution, there has to be at least a minor investigation. Exploring professional assistance is extremely beneficial because it means there will always be an expert on the team to guide everyone toward the best possible outcome.

The Process

However you move forward, certain things need to happen in every circumstance. Communication, definition, prevention, and action are the four core areas to address.


This means ensuring every employee has a channel through which they can speak up if they see misconduct happening in the workplace, or have something happen to them.


Define what your company considers minor misconduct and gross misconduct so everybody knows the signs and what to report vs. what not to.


Comprehensive training modules should be carried out frequently for the whole team so that every person in the company understands what is expected and how they should behave in the professional setting.


Action details the investigation stage and resolution conclusion. This may be a verbal or written warning and in some cases, a complete dismissal will be appropriate.

Ultimately misconduct is there to be dealt with for the protection of both the employee and the company. Certain things like extreme behaviours cannot be allowed to go unchecked as they may harm the business as a result.

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