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What To Do If You Witness Misconduct At Work

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When you land your dream job and start working hard, the last thing you want is to encounter misconduct at the company. As an employee, you will likely sit in many meetings, have many conversations with colleagues and superiors, and witness many interactions between others in the company.

If you do witness something happen at work that doesn’t seem right, it is very difficult to figure out what to do about it. In this blog, we will tackle the tricky question: what should I do if I witness something bad happen at work?

What counts as workplace misconduct?

Workplace misconduct can be defined as any behavior or action that negatively affects either an individual person, or the company as a whole. It doesn’t necessarily have to mean that a crime has been committed – it could just be something that is unethical within the practises of the company.

Here are a few key examples of workplace misconduct:

  • Bullying: if you see somebody use their power to belittle or bully another individual in the company, this is bullying, and certainly counts as workplace misconduct. 
  • Discrimination: when someone from a protected minority, such as a woman, a person of colour, a member of the LGBTQ+ community or a disabled person, is being discriminated against based on that part of their identity. 
  • Sexual harassment or assault. Sexual harassment isn’t just physical – it could be comments or inappropriate jokes too.
  • Theft, or other financial crime. 
  • Defacing work property. 

This isn’t an exhaustive list – if you see anything that seems off at work, it could be workplace misconduct.

What to do if you see something bad happen at work

Now we’ve established what misconduct is, what happens if you see it occur? Here are a few steps you could take.

1. Confront it directly.

If the misconduct is clear and happening right in front of you, you could confront it directly. This isn’t always advisable, particularly if it involves an individual who might pose harm to you – but if you feel someone else needs your help, it may be appropriate to step in and call out the behaviour.

Confronting things directly is definitely worth doing if you see something casual happen, such as a tasteless joke or something else that appears harmless. Saying, “Hey, that’s not okay,” could nip the behaviour in the bud before it goes further.

If you do witness something happen at work that doesn’t seem right, it is very difficult to figure out what to do about it. In this blog, we will tackle the tricky question: what should I do if I witness something bad happen at work?Click To Tweet

2. Note down what you have seen and take your observations to human resources.

If it isn’t appropriate to step in right away, you should note down what you have seen and approach a member of the human resources department. They are trained to deal in sensitive matters and can deal with the issue with discretion. This also protects your anonymity – the people involved won’t need to know it was you who spoke out.

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Have you dealt with backlash from speaking out?

Unfortunately, some whistleblowers have been met with terrible backlash when they have chosen to bravely speak out about workplace misconduct. If you are facing this situation, or you know anybody who is, contact the Whistleblower Info Center for more information and support.

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