Maintaining Professional Conduct Outside the Workplace

With winter fast approaching and many firms starting to plan seasonal festivities, it seems an appropriate time for firms to remind employees of the standards of behaviour that are expected when attending social events both in and outside of the office. Such standards should also be upheld - and expectations of behaviour understood - all year round.

Last month, The FCA released a paper that aimed to reduce misconduct in the workplace. It proposes new rules that safeguard employees from bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination. It goes without saying that staff are expected to behave professionally regardless of the social setting.

Whilst work and personal life should be separate, the way you act outside of work can affect how you behave in the workplace. Negative actions and behaviours, or even criminal activity, can influence the way you treat colleagues and clients. It can also be damaging for the company you work for, including even reputational damage if stories are reported in the media.

Examples of misconduct outside the workplace can include:

  • Inappropriate behaviour at work parties - Common complaints include male bosses making unwanted advances or comments towards female subordinates, mischievous ‘games’ with unwilling participants, and improper touching and kissing between colleagues. To some, it may seem like harmless fun but, to those concerned, it can cause significant distress and embarrassment.

Normal standards of behaviour still apply, even if events are held outside of the office. The venue is to be considered an extension of the workplace and the employer’s duty of care still applies – so responsibility should not be forgotten.

  • Using social media to post inappropriate comments or images - social media can expose negative or embarrassing features of an organisation’s culture, including immaturity or a lack of judgement or professionalism. For example, posts sharing inappropriate jokes, office pranks, or workplace indiscretions may not be as amusing when an employer or client sees it.

Work can, understandably, be frustrating at times, but making negative comments about colleagues or clients could damage your personal reputation and that of the firm. Venting your frustrations online can have serious repercussions. There can be a risk of reputational damage, defamation claims, or cyberbullying and harassment allegations.

Bullying and harassment - This can take many forms, including:

  • offensive ‘jokes’, comments, and ridicule
  • using derogatory terms and slurs
  • sexual harassment
  • threats and assault

None of these behaviours are acceptable, and everyone should be treated with dignity and respect.

Employers should remind all employees in writing, including managers and directors, that they have a duty to behave in a civilised way towards their colleagues and anyone else, in and outside of work. It should also be made clear that any misconduct will be dealt with via the firm’s disciplinary policy, without exception, up to and including dismissal.

About the author

Regine joined RWA between 2021-2023 having graduated from Loughborough University with a 2:1 in Graphic Communication and Illustration. As a Digital Content Assistant, Regine used their graphic design and illustration experience to create engaging e-learning modules. 

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