What is Appropriate Workplace Conduct?

Felicia Dye

Appropriate workplace conduct refers to actions and demeanor that are acceptable at a place of employment. The effects of inappropriate conduct may be limited to the person who displays it or it can be further reaching and have a negative impact on the employer. There are generally consequences that can be imposed on people who act inappropriately at work. Although every act may not be specified, both proper and improper etiquette, are commonly addressed in employee handbooks or contracts along with the procedure for handling violations.

Forming cliques that leave other employees feeling ostracized can often step over the bounds of appropriate workplace conduct.
Forming cliques that leave other employees feeling ostracized can often step over the bounds of appropriate workplace conduct.

Most people understand that there are things that need to be done at work and there are things that should not be done. Although a large portion of workplace etiquette is a matter of common sense, employers still tend to address inappropriate conduct in employee handbooks and contracts. Such items often include appearance regulations such as barring sexually provocative dress, the wearing of facial piercings, or the wearing of apparel that displays offensive images or wording. Behavior such as using profanity, physical confrontations, and attempting to steal clients are also commonly forbidden.

Sexually provocative clothing is considered inappropriate workplace attire.
Sexually provocative clothing is considered inappropriate workplace attire.

What is considered appropriate workplace conduct may be determined by a number of entities including government, professional associations, and business owners. Government tends to limit its involvement in these affairs to matters that have the potential to be substantially harmful to society, such as workplace discrimination or consumer fraud protection. Professional associations can help to contribute a degree of consistency to conduct standards by outlining factors that affect professionalism.

Employers tend to address inappropriate conduct in employee handbooks, such as the wearing of facial piercings.
Employers tend to address inappropriate conduct in employee handbooks, such as the wearing of facial piercings.

The ability of individuals to determine which workplace etiquette is appropriate often results in appropriate workplace conduct in one environment being viewed differently in another environment. For example, a major commercial bank may deem it inappropriate for employees to ever dress casual or to address clients using their first names. A local bank may believe that casual dress and interaction using first names benefit the business.

Supervisors and managers handle problems related to inappropriate workplace conduct.
Supervisors and managers handle problems related to inappropriate workplace conduct.

Inappropriate workplace conduct issues are generally handled by supervisors or managers. There are several consequences an individual who displays inappropriate workplace conduct may be subjected to. These include written warnings, being overlooked for promotions, and dismissal.

Workplace conduct includes a dress code.
Workplace conduct includes a dress code.

The actions of individuals who act inappropriately may also have an impact on other employees. An increasing amount of attention is being paid, for example, to people who create hostile work environments. Inappropriate workplace conduct, when revealed to clients, can also result in a loss of business or in lawsuits.

It's essential that all employees feel that any grievances can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.
It's essential that all employees feel that any grievances can be heard fairly and without fear of retribution.

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Discussion Comments

Lostnfound

@Grivusangel -- When you're talking about just unmannerly behavior, it does seem to be more common in millennials. I guess I sound like a complete old fogy, but I really do think that X-ers learned something about appropriate workplace conduct. Maybe it was in a business class in high school or college, but somewhere along the line, we learned how to act!

Of course, that's not true for all millennials, but many of the ones I've worked with are not just naive or inexperienced. They're completely untaught. They have absolutely no idea what constitutes appropriate behavior in the workplace. I don't know how they got through college. I'm surprised a professor didn't kick them out of class if they acted the way they act in the office!

Grivusangel

We had to institute a dress code last year at my office because we had some girls who apparently didn't understand they weren't supposed to come in to work dressed like they were going to a club!

It was bad because these women are adults and should really know better than to dress like that for work.

We also had to have a phone etiquette seminar because so many of the younger people had no idea how to conduct themselves over the phone. They were so used to texting and not talking, they just didn't know how to act. It was really sad.

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