Signs of misconduct at work

Here we give an insight into what to look out for in the workplace in relation to whistleblowing and signs of wrongdoing.

14-03-2023 - 6 minute read. Posted in: whistleblowing.

Signs of misconduct at work

As we mentioned in our blog post about making whistleblowing something that everyone dares to do, you need to have an open and positive workplace culture. By having this, hopefully more people will report violations of workplace policies.

Here we give an insight into what to look for at work in relation to whistleblowing. It should be noted that these are only signs of violations, and not outright reasons why you should report a colleague for violations. All people are different and thus behave differently.

The following are therefore only indicators of what you should be aware of in your workplace and not certain signs of misconduct.

The secretive colleague

As mentioned, people's behaviour varies from person to person and what one perceives as secretive behaviour, another will perceive as normal behaviour.

However, one should be alerted if a colleague is very reticent and enigmatic. This may be a sign that a colleague is committing or knows of transgressions that could affect the workplace.

For example, if a colleague is very reluctant to tell you where they are during a working day, or they generally disappear without telling you that they are leaving, this would be suspicious behaviour. But again, this may also be due to private circumstances, so you should be cautious of not jumping to any conclusions too soon.

You should avoid confronting them unless they bring it up themselves. Therefore, you can try to keep an eye on them during the working day - just make sure that it doesn't become harassment. If it does, you might find yourself in a case where you could suffer the consequences.

It doesn't hurt to show an interest in your colleagues, as long as you do it in a nice and respectful way. That's one of the most important things to remember when whistleblowing - you have to do it to improve the workplace and working conditions.

A colleague with guilt

You will typically be able to sense if someone is walking around feeling guilty about something. They will often fear being caught in transgressions etc.

It may not be obvious that a colleague is feeling guilty about a transgression, but there are signs that they have changed their behaviour. You can try and start a relaxed dialogue with them and notice if they blame themselves for various things - this should differ from their general behaviour - and if they react more vehemently than usual to underlying accusations.

Again, you shouldn't accuse people of violating norms and regulations, but you can pay closer attention to whether it's a sensitive topic for them.

It is recommended to have people's feelings in mind when you start suspecting them of various things. This is basically accusing them of offences with no evidence. Their behaviour may also be affected by various situations that are none of their colleagues' business.

You can always ask interested questions about them and get a sense of how they feel. Many will also appreciate your interest.

Another thing to look out for is if your colleague starts to have possessions that may not be in keeping with their normal nature - this could be more expensive clothing and devices where they may not have a genuine reason for being able to acquire it.

Then you may find that they have made money from bribery, theft from the workplace or an earned profit by passing on information about the company. There is, though, the possibility that the person has honestly come into more money because of inheritance or the like.

In the same way that you can keep an eye on their exclusive clothing etc., you can also see if their lifestyle is going in the other direction - that is, if they should be in debt of any kind, possibly due to collaboration with criminal actors who have bribed them. By showing an interest in your colleagues, you can similarly protect them from possible debts and offences.

The manager who sets unrealistic goals

Managers often set goals for their department to act as motivators and benchmarks for employees. But they can also be unrealistic. This creates an imbalance in the workplace - and if this continues for a longer time, it can be a violation. This moves towards misconduct if you have tried to express the unrealistic goals to your manager and they blame you for lack of effectiveness.

If your colleagues agree that your perception of the work assignments and goals for the department are out of touch with reality, consider talking to the another manager about the problem. You may also choose to report the misconduct through internal whistleblower functions if there are several employees experiencing the same problem.

It's always a good idea to file all communications between employees and the manager who set the unrealistic goals, as this can be useful to have in the event of the case needing to be investigated further. This way you have evidence of the interaction between you and the manager, as well as evidence of their response to the criticism of the goals.

Another critical point about unrealistic goals in a workplace is that employees will resort to illegal methods to solve tasks if they feel pressured to solve the issue quickly. This will therefore become another matter to be whistleblown. So by solving the problem in the first place, subsequent conflicts and whistleblower cases can be avoided.

In brief

To summarise, there are various things you can look out for in your colleagues' behaviour. You can e.g. look for:

  • Graceful or secretive behavior.
  • Obvious guilt about something.
  • Deviations from normal behaviour.
  • A leader with unrealistic goals for the department.

If your colleagues' behaviour deviates from the norm, you should pay a little extra attention - though that doesn't mean you should be suspicious of every move your colleagues make.

There should be trust in the workplace, and that relies on open communication between employees. If this fails, communication can be more difficult and this can lead to suspicious situations and mistrust in the department.

As mentioned, one should not make hasty decisions when it comes to colleagues' behaviour. Instead, you can start a dialogue with colleagues and show interest in them - this way you can change the course of the workplace and build trust among everyone for a better work culture.

Author Caroline Preisler

Caroline Preisler

Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.

View all posts by Caroline Preisler

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