Management of Industrial Relations

What is Misconduct in the Workplace?

Misconduct or indiscipline means disorderliness, insubordination and not following the rules and regulations of an organisation. It is an act or conduct which is prejudicial to the interest of the employer or is likely to impair the reputation of the employer or create unrest and can be performed even outside the premises of the establishment and beyond duty hours.

The symptoms of indiscipline are change in the normal behaviour, absenteeism, apathy, go-slow at work, increase in number and severity of grievances, persistent and continuous demand for overtime allowance, lack of concern for performance, etc, It is for the management to determine in its standing orders as to what shall constitute acts of misconduct and to define the quantum of punishment for them.

Causes of Misconduct

(1) Conventional Management Practices – Outdated and old- fashioned management practices may cause indiscipline amongst the present-day employees. For example, a rigid work schedule may witness frequent schedule violation or breaking.

(2) Unfair Treatment – Unfair treatment leads to the exploitation of employees. When an organisation indulges in unfair practices in areas such as compensation fixation, promotion, determination and work allotment, it causes indiscipline among employees.

(3) Absence of an Effective Code of Conduct – The code of conduct alone helps the employees in the identification of discipline and indiscipline in their behaviour. When a poorly written code of conduct, the employee may have difficulty in distinguishing between the acts of discipline and those of indiscipline. They may not even know what constitutes misconduct unless and until the authorities tell them.

(4) Absence of Proper Grievance – Handling Mechanism – In the absence of an effective grievance redress system, the employees may indulge in misconduct to attract the attention of the management to their grievances. Thus, lack of effecÈ›ive grievance handling also acts as a source of indiscipline.

(5) Ineffective HR Policies and Practices – An effective and dynamic HR policy can help the management in avoiding employee grievance and, by extension, reduce the chances of employee misconduct. In contrast, an ineffective HR policy can breed grievances and indiscipline.

(6) Absence of an Efficient Communication System – There is a need for every management to keep the employees briefed about the future programmes of the organisation. Similarly, it must get continuous feedback from the employees about the various actions of the organisation. All these require the presence of an effective two-way communication system in the organisation. In the absence of such a system, there would be a communication gap between the employees and the management, The faulty information fed into the informal communication channel may cause disquiet among the employees and result in indiscipline.

(7) Negative Attitude of the Employees and their Unions – When the employees and their union perceive a negative environment in the organisation, they may distrust the management and suspect the real intentions of its every action. In such a situation, the management actions may be opposed by the employees in different forms, which may also include performance and behavioural misconduct.

(8) Organisational Culture – It indicates the basic characteristics of the organisation and influences the way the employees interact with one another as well as with other stakeholders like the employers of the organisation. When the prevailing culture fosters confrontational behaviour among the employees, the organisation may witness an increasing number of acts of indiscipline. In contrast, if the prevailing organisational culture is peaceful and affable, the complaints of misconduct would normally be less.

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Sarvesh Arora

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