Saturday, July 9, 2011

Conduct Unbecoming is Powerful Leverage

Last week your assistant manager got in a bar brawl and then was arrested, only to be in the local newspaper the next day, which clearly embarassed your company. Then a couple days later, one of your truck drivers lost his license due to a drunk driving conviction that occurred while he was not on duty. Yep, the public found out about that one too.

Your employees have behaved in a way that represents conduct unbecoming an employee of your organization. This doctrine -- conduct unbecoming -- was originally developed by the military to address problem behavior among military officers. So, it is a military term originally, but don't think for a minute that this is only a military term.

Many companies are now beginning to adopt this behavior standard to deal problems similiar to the ones with these two employees. Talk to your company attorney. See if you can get a policy concerning "conduct unbecoming an employee", but not necessarily to fire employees. Instead use it as a lever to motivate acceptance of help from the company employee assistance program. Frequently conduct unbecoming is related things like alcoholism, gambling, anger management issues, domestic violence issues, drug use and many more.

If so with violations of conduct unbecoming, you have a lot of leverage, not to fire your best and brightest, but to motivate them to accept help for personal problems that have brought disrepute. With this leverage, you can get the employee to the EAP by using job security as a proactive lever to gain compliance.

Be careful. Always coordinate discipline decisions with your human resource advisor. One issue that requires attorney opinion is how to act on such a policy and avoid being accused by the employee of defaming his or her character. If an employee can point to the employer and say it imputed incompetence, stupidity, unworthiness of continued employment, or dishonesty to the employee, then their is a case for a defamatory claim.

Conduct unbecoming -- is it in your employee handbook?