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Office offences: workplace behaviour to avoid

Friday, November 28, 2008

Top five worst workplace offences:

  • Falling asleep on the job
  • Kissing a co-worker
  • Stealing
  • Spreading rumours about colleagues
  • Consuming alcohol while at work

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When it comes to workplace behaviour, just what is acceptable and what's not? Hannah Nicholas takes a look.

What are some of the worst offences you've seen at work? Share your story below.

A recent US survey discovered that falling asleep at your desk, kissing a workmate and consuming alcohol on the job are the biggest taboos in the office today.

The survey of 5700 workers found that 45 percent considered falling asleep at work the biggest office offence, followed by pashing a co-worker (39 percent), stealing from the workplace (22 percent) and spreading rumours about colleagues (22 percent).

Next came consuming alcohol on the job (21 percent), snooping after hours (18 percent), lying about your academic background (four percent) and taking credit for someone else's work (two percent).

Who is more likely to break workplace taboos?
Men were reported as engaging in these workplace behaviours more than women. Nearly half had fallen asleep on the job compared to women. However, when it comes to kissing co-workers, 44 percent of women admitted to puckering up!

What really is and isn't acceptable?
Melbourne-based psychologist and career-change specialist Meredith Fuller says work is a two-way engagement and employees should drop the fantasy that they can do whatever they like.

"Employees should know what is acceptable and what is not but if they don't, they need to look at role models and mentors to gauge what is acceptable," says Fuller. She also suggests doing some professional development training such as seminars, coaching or reading.

"It's not acceptable to whinge that no one spelled it out for me that you aren't allowed to have sex in the cupboards, sabotage your rival for that promotion or moan all day with your head on the desk because you were out partying hard the night before. Emotional intelligence is expected from both sides — the employer and the employee."

In Fuller's experience, bad workplace behaviour falls into three categories.
1. Violence: the threat of physical harm.
2. Insidious cruelty to others: nasty comments or behaviour that undermines or causes stress so that a person is afraid to go to work.
3. Narcissistic behaviour: ie. the staff member who sleeps on the job, "is out at a meeting" when they are really shopping/getting a haircut/playing golf or one who doesn't do their work properly knowing that another team member will fix it up on their behalf.

What should companies do?
At the end of the day, these bad office behaviours can indirectly affect a company's bottom line. If employees feel uncomfortable at work, then absenteeism can rise, there are turnover increases and managers must spend time mediating conflict. Fuller says smart companies know that people capital is their most important resource and these companies ensure that HR have adequate staffing, authority and procedures to address such grievances and misunderstandings. For those that don't, there could be trouble down the track.

Have your say: what are some of the worst offences you've seen at work? Share your story.

User comments
Twenty one percent consuming alcohol on the job. Not at all surprising really. I hope some employers read this and do some homework. 10% of the population (globally) have a recognised medical disease called, strangely enough, alcoholism. An obsession of the mind and a physical allergy of the body. Incurable and a recognised medical dilemma and mystery. That means in simple statistical terms that one in ten of your employees are incurably sick but really no different than anyone else on the payroll with an illness or disease like diabetes, a heart condition,etc. One in ten of your friends at a BBQ are the same. Everywhere, anytime, indistinguishable by race, colour, geography, socio economic background, rich, poor, senior, junor or whatever. George W. Bush and Winston Churchill amongst a few. Esteemed comapny?
I have been a Manager for the store for eight Years I have never bullied any staff member in that time Eight of the staff that I hired in the beginning have been with me for the eight years I have a great team working for me I appreciate the hard work they do for me. I have been told I am soft but I don't need to be hard unless they have done something wrong and need to be told. I have also a good upper managment team as well, I must be just one of those lucky ones
yes i totally agree with the boss theory, this person im working under is training me, so i would call him my boss, even though he's not management., he has been with the company for 20 years and so the company looks up to him, because he's the best at what he does, they also know they can't get rid of him, cause he's an asset, with all the knoledge he has with him, so what ever he says to other coleagues to upset them, the company cant do much, so he knows he has the leading hand on them, that puts us trainees on stress, and not fare on us, managers overlook these things just to benefit themselves, and because they couldn 't put a training structure inplace to even the knoledge throughout the company, they are struck with this one man who won't share out his knoledge, but only a little, eg when he doesn't want me to learn something he would tell me to turn my head, and said to call a fitter to come and fix it next time it happens, now thats selfish in itself.but i blame the managers.
A woman who supervised (even though she was hardly ever there!) a team I worked next to, at a shipping company in Auckland, was such a conniving bully and was so sneaky about everything she did - it was awful. She would talk about people behind their backs, treat them like children, withold vital information and be really quite nasty. She used to suck up to their manager and make it seem like she was doing the best job ever, when in reality, she was not good at her job, NO ONE had any RESPECT for her at all and the only reason people were nice to her, was because she was so nasty and they didn't want to be on her 'hitlist'. When someone finally brought her behavioural issues to the managers attention, he did nothing about it and we ended up by losing some really good, honest, hardworking team members because of that nasty sad person. Talk about nepotism!! I hear that she's moved - I pity the people who have to work with her now...
Some employers don't realise what valuble staff they have till they are gone. I am pretty much ignored by all of management and staff unless they want something done or I have screwed up somehow. We have staff that dictate the mood of the entire area in which I work - if they're *** we are on the receiving end. Some managers I see being completely ineffective in my eyes and wonder why they are here. If it wasn't for the recession and the fact that I go to school part time, I would tell them where to stick it as no one deserves to work like that. However one of the managers made me go to the doctor to deal with my sleep apnea after he found me asleep at my desk. Result - time out asleep 2 minutes, sitting up with pen in hand and a referal to the sleep clinic.
I had to endure a staff member who accused me of sexually molesting my 4 yr old daughter and laughing about it as well, when I filed a complaint with the manager he stated that they were not interested and was not going to do anything about this staff member. I left the job after suffering a stress related breakdown, I have never trusted an employer or employee after this event, but some of my work friends felt very sorry for me which helped abit.
Health and Safety law stresses a safe work place which covers bullyingand harrassment. Unfortunately you have to prove it even though the bullies manage to create chaos around themselves. they are clever at looking good in front of the Managers so when you make a complaint you become a target for victimisation not only by the bully who usually is a boss so has power over you, but also by the managers who don't want to face up to their problem in employing said bully. I am in this situation and can't prove it even though others have also made complaints. It is unfair that one can ruin it for so many. i am a solo parent and need to keep my job but the stress is affecting my health.
I am very saddened to hear of some of the experiences these people have had. Over the years, I have seen a mixture of good and bad employers. It's true that there are 2 sides to every story, however people should be able to do their jobs without being subject to ridicule or intimidation. The law should be changed to give a balance of protection for employers from 'lazy incompetent sods' and protect employee's from unreasonable behaviour in the workplace. I would also note that most of the bullies I have seen and heard of, are also the ones who are completely incompetent and lazy. Not only do they create a horrible working environment - they also usually run the business into the ground.
I've recently been made redundant and I'd have to say the company actually did do their best by us within the rules they operate under. Some of the other stuff that happened before would make your hair curl, but in fairness I have seen some pretty poor behaviour by employees as well. Things like theft, blatant time wasting, using office facilities for private jobs during working hours, bad mouthing the company to clients, etc, etc. So, like many things in life, work issues can easily be a two way street. These tough times can easily bring the worst out in both sides and in the end, for the work place to operate at its best, both sides need to honour their part of the deal. I'm now self employed and loving it!