What can companies do about misconduct of employees beyond the workplace?

Should companies only worry about the way their employees conduct themselves within the office premises?


All organisations have strict laws and policies regulating the behaviour of employees within the workplace. These help control how employees conduct themselves and treat their co-workers and subordinates. Should companies only worry about how employees carry themselves within the confines of the office premises? Employees will want to project a positive image of themselves, while they are working in the office. But what happens when they are outside the office?

Each employee working in an organisation is a representative of the organisation outside the workplace. Therefore, it is the responsibility of the employees to maintain their dignity and the reputation of the organisation even outside the office. Commenting on the fact Prem Singh, president- global HR head, Wockhardt says, “ Like individuals are identified by their family’s name in the society, officials are identified by their company’s name. Any misconduct by an employee will put implications on the organisation’s name. “ Misbehaviour, anti-social activity or inappropriate conduct of any employee will tarnish the image of the company she or he is associated with.

How should companies tackle such situations? First of all, it is important to make sure that employees do not give any reason for their organisation to face such a predicament. As suggested by our expert, Chandrasekhar Mukherjee, group chief people officer, Srei Infrastructure Finance, “While hiring talent, the company should check the attitude of the person from the way he is answering to the way he is posing queries. It is possible to understand the attitude of the person through the kind of sports the person has played and his participation in extra-curricular activities. Mukherjee shares, “During the recruitment process, we look at two things— whether the person is well equipped with the knowledge to take up the role and whether he is well groomed by his family and school. He should be a person who can deal with the clients and his co-workers and can conduct himself anywhere outside or inside the workplace.”

Apart from the hiring process, what measures should the company take to groom their employees and create well-bred future leaders? Appraisals can be very effective in helping organisations groom their employees. Mostly organisations appraise their employees based on what the person has achieved. Nobody pays attention to how that person has achieved the milestone. Organisations need to focus on the ‘how’ factor and appreciate the employees for their positive approach toward the achieved objective. “In an ongoing process the mode of appraisal matters a lot. We need to focus on the ‘how’ part of the employees while grooming them, “ Mukherjee opines. Putting a person in a difficult position by assigning a tedious task can also help to test that person’s mental level and the attitude with which she or he handles stress.

Chandrasekhar Mukherjee

“During the recruitment process, we look at two things— whether the person is well equipped with the knowledge to take up the role and whether he is well groomed by his family and school. He should be a person who can deal with the clients and his co-workers and can conduct himself anywhere outside or inside the workplace.”

When a case of misconduct and inappropriate behaviour comes to notice, the company should take immediate action. A detailed investigation of the matter should take place to clear all facts regarding the incident. After the investigation, based on the severity of the act, punishment or action should be taken against the employee. “It can range from simply giving a warning or taking the employee through various training programmes to terminating the employee altogether,” Mukherjee suggests.

The big question is what will happen when a senior-level employee is involved in the matter? Organisations tend to suppress the case to save their image from being destroyed.

Our experts say that on the higher rungs of the organisational hierarchy, the matter should be taken more seriously. A zero-tolerance policy should be adopted if a senior executive is involved in the matter. “Based on the gravity of the act the quantum of punishment should be decided and you have to be completely performance neutral and gender neutral while handling such cases, “ Singh opines.

Mukherjee also adds, “ In all these cases it is very important to be fair and treat everyone across all levels of the organisation equally because that is how we can solve these problems and prevent them from recurring in the future. “

Prem Singh

“Based on the gravity of the act the quantum of punishment should be decided and you have to be completely performance neutral and gender neutral while handling such cases “

With the power of the social media, such incidents and associated information flow very quickly amongst the people, and can really jeopardise the reputation of the organisation.


  1. Organisations must formulate code of conduct expected do’s and dont’s based on company values, technology, work process, size, unique history-geography-culture-product etc etc, making employees aware and the consequences.

    HODs/Managers/Supervisors must be made aware and empowered to build a positive work culture in the departments, coach and counsel employees, and initiate immediate disciplinary action in case of gross misconduct out of tolerance, where one could be suspended immediately following inquiry, or seek a verbal or written apology, or counsel and seek immediate resignation, utilising various tactical options situationally available based on the IR Culture of the organisation. Managers be accountable for discipline and work culture in their departments.

    Employee Unions too need to be taken into confidence to win support for sustaining discipline and productivity in the organisation, keeping good rapport with the union representatives, taking severe actions. keeping them in the loop proactively.

    While top management and hr and the managers need to provide exemplary leadership at all times to sustain employee engagement and morale, not doing or saying anything which hurts people sentiments, take critical decisions through employee participation, their likes and dislikes and preferences wherever possible, treating them with dignity and respecting their emotions, communicating with the mass of employees regularly both at the departmental and corporate level regularly, hr keeping the pulse of employee morale, resolving employee requirements and grievances and irritants immediately, and recognising performance liberally, providing tools and tackles, liberal compensation and benefits, flexible policies, work-life balance , safety and health, corporate and shop-floor socialisation, etc.

    New hires be observed for discipline and productivity and any below average performance or intolerant behaviours be reported by HODs and manage their exits amicably, if required by paying them notice pay.
    Probation employees be evaluated strictly and confirmed only if above average performance and acceptable standards of discipline, with required approvals of hr and top management, any known case of poor performance, absenteeism, indiscipline be checked out of the rolls of the company without any undue empathy, not to cultivate a breed of undisciplined employees joining the ranks of union leadership later to sustain themselves, spoiling and demoralising others.

    The idea is not to deal with employees with a heavy hand, but nurture an organisation with values and excellence and quality leadership and performance at all levels, coach-counsel-mentor employees by Managers/Supervisors, and have sensitive hr proactively developing employee oriented policies and benefits and activities and work culture with flexibility promoting high job satisfaction and morale, while proactively removing irritants, updating policies and benefits through employee participation, and resolving both individual and collective grievances instantly on a day to day basis not keeping them lingering, and if required making appropriate recommendations to the top management team now and again, expecting productivity in return. While positive work habits be encouraged by Managers at all times, and any gross indiscipline be dealt with in an exemplary manner with speed and impact not disturbing the standard, empowering the managers to reward and punish their team members taking accountability, with hr and corporate support not being vindictive and demoralising the work force.

    As already mentioned, selecting people for talent and attitude and nurturing them is the first step in building a positive productive organisation culture with collective responsibility, enhancing talent engagement through employee first approach, for high morale and high organisational performance. Non-performers be amicably counselled and improved or outplaced either internal or having them moved out with outplacement support and notice pay, with union support, and not afraid of legal consequences to be handled professionally and knowledgeably and proactivley and situationally as the case may be, without disturbing the overall morale in the organisation, setting the right example each time, while being fair. Communicating with the employees where deemed purposeful.

    Nor moving out an indisciplined and unproductive employee lowers the work and discipline standards in the organisation taking managers-supervisors and the management for granted.

    Professionally supportive liaision with the local community, labor authorities, police and the local politicians and local unions could be of help under unique situations, which requires having effective competent PR/HR Managers supported by the top management people oriented but tough leadership.

    Firm hand in a velvet glove approach, benevolent but firm leadership not allowing employees taking for granted and going out of control and having to negotiate unethically.

    Careful work design and wok habits and work culture with visionary and benevolent but firm top leadership and trained professional cadre of managers with right flexible sensitive hr policies and actions in time, will go a long way in building culture and discipline in organisations, not allowing indiscipline to breed in the organisation, prevention is better than cure, not having to deal with labor courts and police and unions etc, cultivating amicable family spirit with employee dignity and participation, well paid and well taken care of on all occasions from the cradle to the grave. Tactfully and timely weeding out non-performing or undisciplined employees , empowering managers and making them accountable in their role too with hr and management support.

    Hope the rambling adds experiential value to be cultivated and practiced at all managerial levels, whether tackling values and discipline at the workplace or otherwise impacting the brand image and team work.

    Counsel, or move out asking to resign, or remove offering notice pay, or transfer to other location, etc
    Let code of conduct include such unique acts of indiscipline outside the workplace which will invite action, like drinking, violence, corruption, anti-social activities, crime against women and own family, stealing, etc etc

    Suspend the employee till the police or court case is resolved and charges proved, which law too would support; loss of confidence in the employee owing to misconduct is enough to terminate services as per due procedure with notice pay etc. to explore as per the facts of each case on merit and with legal opinion.

    Labour Laws and judicial opinion have become quite liberal where productivity and discipline are involved, the past few decades, in competitive times. Do it amicably and professionally with due counsel and procedure with a firm hand not vitiating the overall atmosphere in the organisation, not to blow up in any manner with union and political or community support etc.

    best regards, kshantaram
    Retired hrd professional and leadership coach, India

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