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A business ethics policy that addresses employee misconduct is a step toward establishing an environment of trust. However, even with a strong policy, convincing employees to step forward when misconduct occurs can be a big challenge for business owners. For this reason, supporting employees via programs and actions that integrate good conduct standards into your business’s mission and vision is critically important.
Define workplace misconduct as it applies to your business. Common examples include theft, fraud, sexual harassment, blatant insubordination, conducting personal business and sending or receiving personal e-mails while at work. Communicate this definition to new hires and current staff members via written standards of conduct and as part of ethics training. Protect your legal right to watch, listen and read workplace communications by letting everyone know that employee monitoring is a standard business practice. An additional benefit to an upfront and direct approach is that it often turns monitoring procedures into preventive rather than reactive controls.
A Misconduct Monitoring Plan
Implement call monitoring and computer monitoring as tactics to make sure employees are following standard operating procedures and are not conducting personal business at work. Call monitoring involves real-time listening to randomly selected telephone conversations or recording and listening to them later. Comply with federal privacy laws by informing callers their conversation may be recorded for quality-control purposes before a conversation begins. Computer-monitoring technologies include software programs that allow you to see both what is on the screen and stored in computer terminals and hard disks. This is helpful for monitoring Internet usage and e-mail communications and in preventing fraud or theft. Install video surveillance cameras at cash register stations, in storage areas and break rooms to deter internal theft.
Review taped telephone conversations and call logs, computer logs, video surveillance tape and corrective action reports to identify previously undetected misconduct incidents as well as identify behavior trends. Create and use audit checklists, comments and written summaries when addressing misconduct incidents and trends. Before taking action, review misconduct violations discovered during monitoring or an audit with the offending employee. It is possible that information or observed actions were misunderstood or taken out of context. An employee should have an opportunity to provide an explanation before you decide whether to take corrective action.
Encourage Employee Reporting
Encourage your employees to report misconduct by setting a good example. Maintain a strong commitment to preventing and addressing misconduct. Implement an open-door policy within the management team, provide ways for employees to report misconduct anonymously and create a culture in which employees view reporting misconduct as a normal part of their jobs. The stronger your commitment and the more you support and encourage misconduct reporting, the greater the chance that employees will follow your lead and report misconduct incidents.
Based in Green Bay, Wisc., Jackie Lohrey has been writing professionally since 2009. In addition to writing web content and training manuals for small business clients and nonprofit organizations, including ERA Realtors and the Bay Area Humane Society, Lohrey also works as a finance data analyst for a global business outsourcing company.