How Businesses Can Determine and Prevent Inappropriate Workplace Behavior

March 6, 2018

In today’s workplace, the way we behave and present ourselves is becoming closely scrutinized. Businesses may assume that everyone knows what “professional behavior” means, but the definition can vary widely from person to person.

According to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission’s task force, it is the responsibility of business leaders to educate employees and promote open discussion about appropriate behavior.

“Workplace culture has the greatest impact on allowing harassment to flourish, or conversely, in preventing harassment. The importance of leadership cannot be overstated – effective harassment prevention efforts, and workplace culture in which harassment is not tolerated, must start with and involve the highest level of management of the company.”

Some employers make the mistake of thinking their employees “know what’s unacceptable,” but studies indicate that isn’t the case. Types of behavior vary widely and what is and isn’t acceptable can be very subjective, leaving the employer dealing with the consequences.

Some examples of “debatable” inappropriate behaviors include:

  • Standing within six inches of another person
  • Grabbing a shoulder, slapping a thigh, hugging
  • Pictures of inappropriately dressed people in your workspace
  • Talk of sexual conquests, or desired actions
  • Repeated requests to meet after work after being previously rejected
  • Pressure to attend groups or events
  • Comments on others choice of clothing, or appearance

Harassment based on any protected status such as race, ethnicity, and religion are equally prohibited.

The EOCC’s study also suggests companies should have enforceable policies to hold employees accountable for inappropriate behavior.

“. . . at all levels, across all positions, an organization must have systems in place that hold employees accountable for this expectation.”

Steps you can take to prevent and enforce policies include:

  • Distribute an anti-harassment policy
  • Host educational sessions for employees
  • Address complaints immediately
  • Conduct formal investigations
  • Model appropriate behavior
  • Share harassment, dress code and language policies with prospective employees during the hiring process routinely thereafter

A company’s ethics helps to shape the behavior of its employees and when a company shows they value integrity and honesty, every aspect of the business will improve.

Letting employees know you’re looking out for them can help reduce workplace absenteeism, anxiety and stress which can create a more productive, happy workforce.

AccessPoint can help your business develop workplace behavior and harassment policies with the support of our Human Resources Managers.

Jill Hannigan
Jill Hannigan