What is a Misconduct Warning Letter and When is it Needed?

A prime factor that leads to an organization’s success is its workforce. Motivated people create and mold a, likewise, striving and achieving company. And in the efforts to maintain high motivation among the people, a company offers desirable compensation packages and fosters a professional environment. One way of creating a conducive work environment is to demand professional and appropriate behavior from its employees. The explanation and compilation of these behaviors are in codes of conduct or employee handbooks. These documents include lists of unwanted behavior in the office and the process of its corresponding penalties.

Clearly, there is zero-tolerance towards any form of misconduct in the organization. Primarily when it significantly affects production and morale. Improper behavior leads to various outcomes, such as fines, suspensions, or termination. And for employers, serving sanctions are never easy, but these are necessary to keep the order in the company. In line with this, calling out these behaviors follow a proper procedure. A vital tool in these procedures is misconduct warning letters. These letters contain clarification and explanation of the improper conduct and introduction of the next legal and necessary steps of the company about it.

The Gravity of Professional Misconduct

In a general sense, misconduct is simply putas unacceptable behavior in a professional setup. It can be as simple as underperformance, absentee behavior, or failure to present valid explanations. However, it can also be as grave as fraud, theft, or intentional data breach to undermine the operations of a company. Primarily, misconduct in the workplace comes in different forms and warrants various intensity of penalties. Here are the two general categories of unpleasant and unacceptable behavior:

General Misconduct

General misconducts are minor infractions in the workplace. These violations are usually not intentional and not damaging to the organization. Moreover, minor misconducts are basic behavior disobedience that can be prevented or stopped. Absenteeism, tardiness, and poor performance fall under this category. These behaviors are warranted with verbal and written warnings from human resource personnel or the direct supervisor. Consequently, as these acts start off as something minor, the reprimand for these behaviors varies according to its gravity and frequency. But, the distinction between small and gross misbehaviors varies per industry, especially when it comes to cases of a data breach. Some sectors which require total security, which is the case with banking and finance, consider unintentional disclosure of sensitive data as gross misconduct. Other industries can allow occasional slips, granted that it does not significantly cause damage to the company’s operations and reputation.

Gross Misconduct

Actions classified as gross misconduct are also called as terminal behaviors. These acts are not necessarily illegal in nature, but the significance of its impact on the organization warrants immediate termination. The specifics of gross misconduct is similar across distinct industries. One example is fraudulent behavior. Together with theft and other criminal offenses, it stains the credibility of the company, which can undermine the possible dealings of the company. The majority of industries also frown upon sexual harassment, discrimination, and any other forms of disrespectful behavior. Respect is necessary for upholding a favorable work environment and in maintaining safe spaces for everyone. Furthermore, insubordination and other acts that sabotage the objectives of the company also guarantee termination. Insubordinate acts often include the refusal of tasks from managers and supervisors. The first few acts may earn verbal and written warnings, but constant refusal can compromise business operations. A significant negative impact on the daily operations justifies termination.

More than termination, gross misconduct among healthcare professionals can result in the revocation of the professional license. Without a license, they can no longer practice their profession in a particular state. Some reasons that can lead to dismissal include malpractice or negligence, insurance fraud, abuse of patients, and medication violations. Any act that violates the profession’s code of ethics places a professional in hot water.

Desirable and Appropriate Traits in the Workplace

Human capital is the largest and most crucial investment that a company makes to keep the organization successful. The workforce is a financial investment. And the goal is to bring in people who are in for the long haul. There is intolerance for misconduct—big or small. To lessen or prevent dealing with employees who make minor or gross misconducts, it is crucial to review if they have these traits and behavior. Regardless of the nature of your business, having employees with these traits brings in more benefits than disadvantages. Make sure to invest in them.

Accountability: You would want to invest in people who have a deep sense of accountability. These employees are eager to take on responsibilities, but not so much that they take on other employees’ roles in the organization. They are in it for the long run. These employees take on tasks and projects as their own and do their best to produce the best possible output. Employees with high accountability have a lesser probability of doing misconduct that will compromise the goals of the company. And if ever they do commit misbehaviors, they make up for it.Integrity: Workers ingrained with integrity will always make decisions that are right for a particular project or circumstance. These employees will not engage in serious infractions such as intentional breach, fraud, or malpractice because they know the implications of these actions to the company, and their respective careers. They are not easily swayed to join in committing gross infractions, even if it promises significant advantages for them. It is safe to say that the moral compasses of these individuals are pointing at their true norths.Discipline: You will never have to worry about writing misconduct warning letters to disciplined employees. These employees come to work on time, accomplish tasks excellently, and maybe even submit before the assigned deadline. These are the type of people who know how to prioritize their responsibilities. Any forms of misconduct, general or gross, are against their principles.Punctuality: Have you ever worked with an excellent employee but has an unfortunate habit of taking time off work without any notice? If yes, then you know the stress that uncommunicated absences bring into the workplace. Most of the time, there is a need to adjust the workload of the present employees because the responsibility of the absent employee needs to be done. But, in managing punctual employees, you do not have to deal with written and verbal warnings about their attendance behavior. There is also a high chance that these employees are also punctual in submitting requirements and in completing responsibilities.Achiever Mentality: Above all, you want to work with people who want to succeed in their chosen careers. People who have the drive to go above and beyond in any task assigned to them. These employees do away from negative behaviors that can hinder the advancement of their careers. Raking in these kinds of employees in the company creates a pool of loyal and highly skilled individuals that can place the organization at an advantageous place. More often than not, the kind of notices and letters they receive are words of appreciation and recognition for their contribution. And a bonus advantage of having employees with achiever mentalities is that they can motivate and inspire other employees to perform just as well as them.

How to Compose a Misconduct Warning Letter

Verbally calling out bad attitudes or unfavorable behaviors in the workplace may work for a short while, but it is easily dismissed. Granted, it works well for small infractions among peers. But, in order to maintain a conducive and workable space, it requires a proper process. The first step in this process usually comes in the form of verbal warnings. But when situations escalate, warning letters are necessary. Provided below is a short yet comprehensive process on how to compose one.

Step 1: Verify the Incident from Several Sources

Before confirming and taking on the appropriate action for employee misbehavior, it is a legal responsibility to confirm the validity of the incident from several sources. Records of previous instances, narratives from witnesses, and the employee’s explanation can serve as proofs of validity. Video footages from security cameras are also useful when the incident involves theft or equipment damage. Similar to the government’s legal system, corporations follow an ethical disciplinary process before serving the penalty of the employee. Proving the validity of the incident before any action saves the company’s resources, both time and effort. Otherwise, working with unverified reports places the reputation of the organization in a negative light. It can leave the impression that the organization works in a whim.

Step 2: Dive Into the Details

After checking the validity and gathering the facts of the incident, the line manager or human resource specialist can start composing the letter. Misconduct warning letters are straightforward. It is natural to open the letter with the nature and the details of the case. Ideally, it includes when the misbehavior was done and the frequency. If there were failures in presenting satisfactory and valid explanations, you could also use those as supplementary information. Most importantly, clearly indicate the implications of the misbehaviors to the business operations. Also, do not forget to indicate if the document is the first written warning or if it is the final warning. Adding this detail will set the urgency of the warning.

Step 3: Present the Consequences

Warning letters, whether first or last notice, need to present the possible disciplinary actions for undesirable behavior. For this part of the letter, you can cite stipulations from the company’s code of conduct or employee handbook because the consequences vary from one organization to the other. Apart from indicating the repercussions, also present the feasible measures that can be done to minimize the damages and, finally, meet the set standards of the institution. Stating these sets of information provides a chance for the employee to change the behavior if the violations are minor.

Step 4: Indicate the Right to Appeal

A proper closing for a warning letter is to spark hope for continued employment. It comes in the form of the employee’s right to appeal. An appeal provides the employee to explain the behavior or to provide proof to counter the allegations. Providing this avenue is a crucial part of the organization’s disciplinary process. In the letter, give the steps on how the employee can appeal. Include who to address the letter and when to submit the document. Furthermore, relay that the office is open for personal discussions granted that the necessary steps are followed.

Step 5: Record and Safe keep the Document

Now that crucial details are enclosed in the letter, make sure to record when and to whom the letter was sent. It is standard procedure to keep track and record all kinds of employee documents, especially concerning employee discipline. The record of these files is crucial for the following procedures of the disciplinary process, mainly when it deals with gross misconduct. When worse comes to worst, the records and documents are accessible and valid pieces of evidence for possible court proceedings.