How do we address an employee who is being inappropriate?
This question is why having a handbook with updated policies, including a disciplinary process, is so important. From time to time, you will need a manual to guide you through these situations and to ensure fairness in your response to and education for the employee in question. Having a process also helps to correct any shortcomings to coach employees to be valuable, contributing members of the workforce. Documentation created as a result of the discipline process can also help protect an employer if termination or other adverse employment decision becomes necessary.
Before all else, establishing a workplace code of conduct as well as other workplace standards is necessary. Employees must have fair and reasonable notice of what is expected of them. They must know the parameters of permissible and prohibited conduct in the workplace. Once you establish a policy, you will want to investigate and address the behaviors deemed inappropriate per your disciplinary method. The ultimate objective of progressive discipline is to help employees correct conduct problems and resolve performance issues in the earliest stages. Depending on the situation and how overt the behavior is, you will want to meet discipline with the degree of misbehavior.
For example, if the employee cursed in front of a customer you may choose to write them up and file the write-up in their personnel file. However, if the employee got physical with another coworker or engaged in any criminal activity, you likely should terminate pending thorough investigation. Of course, every instance is different and should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.
As always, be sure to properly document and have ongoing conversations about expectations such as professionalism and behavior to avoid future issues. In the interim of creating your policy, let the employee know that inappropriate behaviors were reported and ask them to explain themselves. Continue to monitor and document the situation while providing factual feedback to the employee. Here are some typical examples of employee discipline.