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Managing Misconduct? Keep This in Mind.

Beth Dean 08.16.19
88 Working Sunflair Dude

How do you handle a not so great employee?

The workforce is filled with capable, professional adults with good intentions, working together to enrich the company, each other, and their families…and then, there are some bad apples.

Unfortunately, a rotten employee will sometimes find their way into a company. Maybe this person spreads malicious gossip. Maybe this person only feels fulfilled at the expense of others. Maybe this person is a thief. This person is certainly not the norm, but their presence can become so overwhelming that it infects the whole company.

So how do you manage blatant misconduct? There are many ways, including solid recruitment and screening processes that don’t let the rotten employee through the door in the first place. Assuming we don’t have perfect future-predicting capabilities, sometimes they slip through. 

Here’s one important thing to keep in mind when managing misconduct: Don’t terminate too fast…or too slowly.

Some managers are ready to call it quits the moment an employee deviates from the norm. There’s no reason to terminate a potentially great employee if things can be worked out. To terminate an employee for misconduct, the act usually must be egregious to win an unemployment claim or avoid a wrongful termination or discrimination claim. 

There are some situations in particular where managers should be careful not to mistake for misconduct, including: 

  • Excessive time off for medical problems or work comp injury treatment
  • Job performance issues that can be fixed through better training and expectations
  • Legitimate complaints about company or manager practices, employee pay, or safety
  • Nonconformity due to religion, gender, or other differences protected by Title VII

On the other side, managers are sometimes too slow to action. They hold on to the optimistic and admirable hope that the mess can be fixed. Others may be afraid to confront the issue head-on and want to passive-aggressively let the person go in a “layoff.” Sometimes, it’s time to let go, and it’s important to record the reasons accurately. 

Sometimes, the situation demands immediate action for the safety of others. Some situations in which an employee may need to be immediately terminated include: 

  • Violent threats or acts
  • Proven theft (be sure to include legal authorities)
  • Severely unprofessional or malicious misconduct
  • Sexual harassment

One item to note: Many states have at-will employment, meaning there is no formal contract and the employment relationship can end at any time for any reason. While at-will employment does add a layer of protection to both parties, we must stress that you should use it carefully and sparingly.

We think of an at-will termination as a quick route to the courtroom since there are so many laws that protect employees , making it difficult for the company to prove that one of those protected reasons wasn’t the real reason for termination.

Above all, use your Nextep HR business partners. They’re professionally certified experts who have seen some of the worst cases of misconduct and can walk you through your own issues, step by step. 

If you’re facing a rotten employee or are in need of human resource guidance, please contact Nextep’s HR team.

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