What is Misfeasance?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 14 October 2019
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Misfeasance is a term that is often employed to describe the process of engaging in a legal and proper action, but failing to perform that action in the correct manner. Sometimes referred to as malfeasance or nonfeasance, this incorrect process usually takes place due to inexperience or a failure to fully understand the process. However, there are instances where the incorrect action occurs due to intentional negligence.

For the most part, misfeasance is a term that is used in legal circles. An individual may be found guilty of this type of action when he or she fails to comply with lawfully prescribed actions as they relate to laws, statutes, or customs and determined by law officials. Often, the offenses occur due to a lack of knowledge on the part of the individual who commits them. While this factor can and sometimes does impact the type of restitution necessary, failing to know applicable laws is usually not acceptable grounds to excuse the incorrect action altogether.


The phenomenon of professional misfeasance is not unknown in the business world. Executives, managers, and supervisors within a company structure may choose to ignore proscribed procedures in order to take a short cut that will lead to the desired end in less time. While the end result may still be the same, circumventing established procedures might create other issues for the company at a later date. Thus, this act of willful misfeasance could ultimately result in negative consequences for the entire company, sometimes to the point that any savings in time and resources that were earned from taking the short cut are completely offset.

It is important to note that this type of professional negligence does not always have to be active and nature. Willful misfeasance can also occur by choosing to function in a passive capacity. In this type of application, it is not a matter of circumventing established procedures but failing to perform them or any similar procedure at all.

For example, a supervisor feels that taking the time to conduct periodic employee evaluations is a waste of time, so he or she simply does not do them. The lack of diligence to duty and procedure may not become apparent until an employee requests a transfer to another department. Upon checking the employee’s personnel file, it is noted there are not periodic performance evaluations. Misfeasance in this situation could lead to the dismissal of the manager and possibly prevent the employee from being considered for the transfer.

With rare exception, an act of misfeasance may yield some short-term benefits for one or a few people, but ultimately can lead to difficulties for others who are negatively impacted by the active or passive act of negligence. Whether the situation involves the laws of the land or the operation of a business, the end result of this type of behavior is normally detrimental in the long run.


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