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When you secure your dream job and dive into hard work, encountering misconduct at the company is the last thing you expect. As an employee, you engage in numerous meetings, and conversations with colleagues and superiors, and witness various interactions within the organization.
When you witness something unsettling at work, knowing how to address it can be challenging. In this blog, we unravel the dilemma of what actions to take if you witness misconduct in the workplace.
- Recognize the signs: Educate yourself about different forms of workplace misconduct to identify when it occurs.
- Gather evidence: Document incidents, collect emails or messages, and gather any relevant evidence to support your claims.
- Consult company policies: Familiarize yourself with your company’s policies regarding workplace misconduct and reporting procedures.
- Talk to a trusted colleague: Share your concerns with a trusted coworker who can offer advice and support.
- Report to HR or management: Follow your company’s reporting channels and report the misconduct to the appropriate authority.
- Maintain confidentiality: Respect the privacy and confidentiality of all parties involved while addressing the issue.
- Seek legal advice: If necessary, consult with an employment lawyer to understand your rights and explore further action.
- Document incidents: Keep a record of all incidents, conversations, and actions taken throughout the process.
- Take care of your well-being: Prioritize self-care and seek support from friends, family, or counseling services if needed.
- Follow-up: Stay engaged with the resolution process and ensure that appropriate actions are taken to address the misconduct.
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 practices 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 color, 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 behavior.
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 behavior 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 with 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.
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.
This book raises awareness on incidents of harassment and gives tips on handling this illicit conduct in the workplace.