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‘Out there’ work culture the reason for misconduct?

‘Out there’ work culture the reason for misconduct? (Last Updated On: November 8, 2016)

Every workplace has its own specific culture, which means that the way employees act whilst on the job may differ depending on the workplace.

A recent case has highlighted the importance of businesses being aware of the culture that exists in their organisation and ensuring that the relevant policies are enforced across the board.

Case overview.

A cabin crew supervisor was recently dismissed after sharing inappropriate photos with his colleagues. An investigation conducted by the airline into the supervisor’s behaviour found that he had shared naked photographs and videos of a flight attendant he had been in a sexual relationship with to his team members on numerous occasions. The investigation also found that he regularly made inappropriate sexual comments to his female co-workers, and repeatedly made unwanted sexual advances toward them.

The supervisor denied any wrong doing on his behalf, and claimed that his behaviour was part of normal banter between colleagues. He blamed his conduct on the airline’s ‘out there’ work culture.

However, the Fair Work Commission rejected the supervisor’s argument that the workplace culture was the reason for his behaviour, and stated that the supervisor should be held responsible for his own conduct. As a supervisor, he should have led his team by setting an example.

Lessons that can be learned.

Workplace culture is often referred to as the character and personality of a business. This can mean the accepted way that employees act, speak and interact with each other.

According to a study conducted by recruitment company Robert Walters, employees rank workplace culture as a decisive factor when seeking a new job, and is one of the top reasons they would feel compelled to leave a company.

In this recent case, the cabin crew supervisor was of the belief that his workplace culture would be accepting of him sharing inappropriate information with his colleagues. This is why it is of utmost importance that employers are aware of what types of behaviours are occurring within their workplace. If an employee feels that bad language and sexual harassment is acceptable within their workplace, because this behaviour has been allowed on numerous occasions without repercussions, then an employer must take action.

Action to be taken.

Clearly defined policies and procedures relating to the conduct expected of employees as well as the company’s stance on bullying and harassment (including sexual harassment) should be communicated to each employee. It is recommended that these policies and procedures be included in employee handbooks and new starter inductions.

Your policies should include a clear definition of what constitutes sexual harassment and misconduct, and the repercussions of engaging in any form of harassment or inappropriate conduct. Refresher training should be regularly conducted, including managerial training on how to recognise and correctly deal with a breach of the policy.

Sexual harassment can have a serious and damaging effect on a business. As an employer it is your responsibility to:

• have an appropriate harassment policy in place
• make sure your staff are trained on how to identify and respond appropriately to harassment
• have an internal procedure for dealing with harassment complaints
• ensure you take appropriate action if harassment does occur

Having a laidback workplace culture can encourage your staff to feel more comfortable, which in turn leads to greater productivity and high retention rates, but employers must take care to ensure that inappropriate behaviour is correctly and effectively handled if it arises.

As Australia’s leading workplace relations specialist, Employsure can assist with drafting tailored policies and procedures for your business, and provide professional advice if you are faced with inappropriate behaviour in your workplace. Call us today on 1300 651 415.

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