5 examples of misconduct in the workplace

June 16, 2022

Many times when people think of whistleblowing, they think of huge scams, bribery or spying on competitors. It is after all this that you read about in connection with whistleblowing in the media, or what you see on TV.

In reality, however, there are a large number of different types of misconduct that can take place in the workplace. Here we will therefore go through 5 examples of misconduct that can lead to whistleblower cases.

1. Theft

This is perhaps the most obvious item on the list. However, it is worth remembering that theft is not just about huge quantities. Instead, it can sometimes be about theft that many may not think is enough to investigate.

This study from 2022 by ACFE shows, among other things, that many cases of theft last for a period of more than 10 years. Also that only 4% of the cases saw that the people involved had already been convicted.

Common examples are theft of stock, merchandise or even stealing from colleagues. Many people are aware that these types of thefts are also a misdemeanor in the workplace. Even though it can sometimes be small amounts, it can therefore lead to complaints resulting in the  organization needing to investigate the matter.

Also read: The Whistleblower Directive's 6 minimum requirements for employers

2. False documentation

False documentation also falls under misconduct in the workplace. Here, too, things can apply on a much smaller scale than huge frauds that affect the entire organization's turnover or the like.

This could be, for example, changing documents to improve its ranking with evironmental or health & safety departments, falsifying certificates that the organization meets certain goals or falsifying a signature. All of these types of actions are against the law and can therefore result in a whistleblower reporting it, internally to someone within the organization or externally to the media.

Also read: Why internal whistleblowing is superior

3. Violation of health and safety regulations

Many times this type of misconduct starts with someone doing it once, because "there is no danger in just doing something wrong this time". Unfortunately, there is a danger of doing so and it often leads to similar shortcuts in the future that can be even more detrimental to the organization and the health of employees.

There are special health and safety regulations for one reason. These should never be broken as it can quickly create an unsafe or directly dangerous work environment. This is therefore one of many misconducts that a whistleblower can report, especially as it can endanger someone's life.

Also read: Which whistleblower cases are of public interest?

4. Abuse of power

By abuse of power we basically mean different types of bullying or harassment by managers in the workplace. This is often shown by the fact that a person in a position or role with more power than others uses this power to intimidate or mistreat others. Sometimes it can also be shown by the person in power taking every opportunity to publicly scold or school someone, even though the situation does not require it.

The study Chaos and the Abuse of Power from 2006 contains very useful information about what creates this problem and how to prevent it.

An abuse of power can come in many different forms and it can often be difficult for the affected people to report it as there is often a fear of reprisals. In these situations, it is advantageous to offer a whistleblower solution where anonymity is an option and takes matters handled in as independent a way as possible.

5. Sexual harassment

Sexual harassment can come in many different forms and does not necessarily have to be just about employees within the organization. Even sister companies, customers and suppliers can experience, or expose others to, sexual harassment.

Because it is a subject that some consider to be “open to interpretation”, or at least has vague boundaries, and which often involves a risk of reporting to the victim, it is unfortunately often unreported. For example, an employee may mistakenly convince themselves that it is them who overreact when they become uncomfortable with an employee or superior's approach or do not take the risk of reporting it because it "will not make a difference".

Also read: 3 ways to encourage employees to report malpractice

In summary

With five examples of misconduct in the workplace, you may be wondering what to do with the information. We leave it entirely up to you, but with these irregularities in mind and greater insight into how the victim thinks or why he or she chooses not to report, it may be worth reviewing what your whistleblower policy and whistleblower solution looks like, and if it needs updating.

Many organizations have examples of the types of situations that are worth blowing the whistle about in their policies. It can therefore be a good idea to include examples of situations if they are not included in your whistleblower policy currently.

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