Reporting Misconduct in the Workplace

6 min. read

Misconduct can lead to serious issues in the workplace and the company, and those within it, will suffer if misconduct is not being reported.

Misconduct can lead to serious issues in the workplace. In a legal sense, you could define misconduct as something that contravenes rules and regulations. Misconduct in the workplace describes employee behavior that negatively impacts the employee's work, environment, or customers or coworkers. Misconduct can range from minor issues to negligence or breaking safety protocols and endangering lives. These are serious problems especially if people get injured. No matter what, the company, and those within it, will suffer if misconduct is not being reported.

Why Report misconduct?

If someone is doing something wrong while they are working it could lead to far greater problems if you don’t report it. Sometimes not reporting an incident or observation can result in you being responsible for a mistake or injury. When it comes to safety violations, reporting them is essential. Statistics show that there is a workplace accident every 7 seconds in the United States. Accidents can have big consequences. People can lose their lives. In 2020 there were 4,764 fatal work injuries recorded in America. In 2020, employers reported 2.7 million injury and illness cases in private industry.

An amazing workplace is one where you don’t feel threatened if you need to report misconduct. You need to be able to hold people accountable to a code of ethics and standard of behavior that is based on respect and trust. Being a “snitch” isn’t the same as reporting misconduct in the workplace.

The US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) recently reported that nearly 73,000 charges of misconduct in the workplace were filed in 2019. Unfortunately, many incidents of workplace misconduct go unreported.

Reasons for NOT reporting misconduct

People can get bullied into believing that they should not get involved in other folks' affairs. That may work in a community or a neighborhood but when it comes to work and the environment in which you do your day-to-day business you have to be aware of what is going on around you. If part of your team or workforce is misbehaving or cutting corners it needs to be addressed. If no one knows about the problem it will never get fixed or it will just get worse. Here are a few examples of the main reasons workplace misconduct goes unreported. People are mostly afraid of retribution in one form or another such as:

Losing their job

If you feel like reporting the people responsible will get you fired you are not going to want to blow the whistle. It puts you in a position where you can’t win at work and has the effect of paralyzing you into powerlessness.

Having their hours or pay reduced. OR being transferred.

Reporting a manager or co-worker who can get your hours or pay cut puts you in a perilous position if you are relying on your paycheck. If someone decides to transfer you out of town or out of state because they want to get rid of you it could cause upheaval for you and your family.

Being denied a raise or promotion

Being labeled troublesome or being perceived as helpless or weak – or a snitch or tattle-tale, or "Karen" – minimizes your chances of promotion in a closed culture that looks after its’ own.

Many victims feel they won’t be believed

This is particularly true when it comes to bullying and sexual harassment.

How to safely report misconduct in the workplace

Submit an Anonymous Report

The old suggestion box has come a long way. Nowadays many workplaces and companies have a way to report anonymously in order to help employees avoid retaliation if they feel threatened. Find out if your workplace has something similar.

Talk to Your Team Leader

Working with a team can be challenging especially if one of the team members is not pulling their weight or you feel the need to report misconduct. Getting hold of your team leader and asking for a private meeting gives you the privacy to summarize your concerns and highlight any areas of worry. After that, you can let the leader deal with it as they see fit. If your team leader is part of the problem, schedule a meeting with your supervisor and outline the issues at hand.

Speak up in a Meeting

Certain types of workplaces hold regular safety meetings. If safety is a concern due to misconduct you should consider speaking up. Making sure that everyone at your work takes safety seriously is a must. It isn’t necessary to make a public example out of the culprits. No one wants to be shamed in front of a whole team of co-workers, however, it is possible to highlight concerns in a way that is respectful and kind.

"I've noticed that some team members aren't keeping to the regulations regarding _____ and I just wanted to raise a concern about it." is not the same thing as "Chad has been breaking the rules and I want everyone to know about it!"

Sometimes people make mistakes and don’t bend or break the rules on purpose. Encouraging people to conduct themselves in accordance with the rules and regulations as well as company policy in a positive way can be more effective than reporting someone and getting them in trouble.

Safety in the workplace needs to be top of mind, especially in the construction and transport industries. A worker died every 111 minutes from a work-related injury in 2020.Transportation incidents remained the most frequent type of fatal event with 1,778 fatal injuries, accounting for 37.3 percent of all work-related fatalities.

Contact OSHA

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) oversees worksite safety compliance. If you are concerned about someone or a group of people who are involved in some sort of workplace misconduct that could result in an unsafe workplace, you have the right to fill a complaint. Once it is filed, OSHA will then investigate and make sure that any issues are addressed.

One step at a time

Most companies should have corporate policy regarding misconduct and the steps one should take to address or report them. Here is an example:

  1. Noticing something is wrong
  2. Expressing disapproval to the person(s) involved
  3. Talking to the person(s) responsible for the misconduct
  4. Talking to one's superior about the situation
  5. Talking to Human Resources about the situation
  6. Taking liberal notes for a report
  7. Writing a report
  8. Submitting the report

Reporting your fellow employees for misconduct in the workplace can be challenging, but for the good of all concerned, it is important to work out how best to proceed if you do see something that is not right. Speaking up means taking responsibility for something and someone else. It means you care and put the team first.

When it comes to safety, you cannot ignore something that could end up with people hurt or suffering. Reporting misconduct in the workplace can literally save lives.