Career Advice

Navigating Workplace Ethics: Preventing Misconduct

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We all want to do our best at work, and most employers genuinely want to see their employees succeed. However, employee misconduct does occur in every workplace to varying extents. Many employees are currently working from home with minimal supervision for the first time and may be unsure how to properly navigate their new routine and avoid any missteps. In a tough job market, it is even more critical than ever to prevent misconduct in the workplace and avoid any disciplinary action resulting from misconduct. Here are some tips for staying on HR’s good side and avoiding misconduct.

Read The Employee Handbook

Yes, you should read the employee handbook. Also, be sure to read any new policies that are posted or provided to you. When you acknowledge receipt of the manual or sign to confirm that you’ve read a new policy, your employer expects that you thoroughly review it and will hold you to the expectations outlined in it. It may not be the most riveting reading material, but knowing your company’s policies is the easiest way to avoid workplace misconduct!

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Communicate Appropriately

You must be mindful of the communication channels, how you communicate, and when you communicate with employees, superiors, and coworkers.

Communicate Respectfully

Handle differences of opinion respectfully. Conflict in the workplace is normal, but it should always be handled calmly and respectfully. Abstain from using unkind language and seek help from a manager or mediator if you cannot resolve the conflict directly with your coworker. Avoid telling jokes that could be considered offensive to others in your workplace, and be respectful to people of different cultures and backgrounds.

Be Cautious About Social Media

Know the policies and the norms of your organization before adding others on social media. LinkedIn is a professional networking site, and as long as you keep communications appropriate, this one is fine to add coworkers, superiors, and employees. However, more informal social networks such as Instagram can get a bit trickier.

If you are a manager or supervisor, your organization may ask that you not add employees on social media. Even if there is no policy, pay attention to the workplace culture regarding social media. In some workplaces, everyone is connected through various forms of social media. Others stick to LinkedIn or Facebook only. If you add coworkers, make sure you’re commenting and messaging them appropriately and not sending anything that could make someone uncomfortable or harassed. Cyberbullying and sexual harassment over social media is still serious workplace misconduct even if it takes place outside of work hours and communication channels.

Keep Communications Within Business Hours

Night owls, this one’s for you! Try to avoid contacting coworkers or employees late in the evening – unless, of course, they work swing shifts or graveyard shifts. If you’re catching up on work at night, sending work-related emails is generally acceptable as long as it’s understood that the other party will most likely not respond until the morning.

However, abstain from sending text messages in the evening. This not only disrupts work-life balance, but it can come across as intrusive or inappropriate. Sexual harassment will often start with casual messages outside of business hours, so even if your messages are well intended, they may make others uncomfortable. 

Be Transparent about Time and Attendance

This one is especially important if you’ve transitioned to remote work this year. Be honest if you need to leave early or are running behind schedule. It’s easy to overlook the importance of this if you work at home or in a work setting with limited supervision, but if you are an hourly employee, you need to report your time accurately. Employers take time clock or time reporting misconduct very seriously, and it can have legal ramifications if you are frequently misreporting the amount of time you worked.

Use Work Resources For Work

This one sounds simple enough, right? If your employer provides you with materials needed to complete your work, avoid using them for personal reasons. Don’t take office supplies home without permission. Save your work laptop or computer for work, and use your personal computer at home for non-work activities. Time is also a resource, so make sure you’re communicating with your supervisor if you have downtime while on the clock. Some employers won’t mind if you study or work on side projects between customers or a slow day, but make sure you have approval and aren’t diverting time away from your work duties.

Respect Confidentiality

Most jobs have some level of confidentiality, and it is essential to respect and maintain it. Do not share any proprietary information such as recipes, manufacturing processes, or other trade secrets of your company. You should also respect customer or client confidentiality by not sharing information that customers have given you unless they consent to having their information shared or when required by law.

Report Misconduct When You See It

It should go without saying that things like theft and harassment are misconduct. However, it’s also essential to avoid being a bystander or an accessory to misconduct in the workplace. If you see someone being mistreated, talk to HR. This includes harassment, bullying, discrimination, or unwanted sexual advances or comments.

Similarly, you must report any theft immediately to management or human resources. Failing to report theft allows it to continue and makes you complicit. When in doubt, always speak up and let HR or management decide whether something you have observed falls under misconduct.

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04/19/2024 11:52 pm GMT

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