Writing an Effective Employee Behavior Policy

Why a Behavior Policy?

Some behaviors do not belong in a workplace or in a civil society, but agreeing on what those behaviors are and how to enforce their restriction is a challenge. Human resources departments are the agency responsible for implementing a policy in the workplace when leadership has decided to address an employee behavior as problematic.

Both civil and criminal law gives us some guidance on acceptable behavior, and practices such as protections against discrimination are codified in laws that allow a legal redress if they are violated. If the behavior being addressed has civil or criminal law attached, on the local, state, or federal level, that information should be used as a guideline for a written workplace policy. If a behavior is part of federal civil rights and employment law protections, violating those laws puts not only the individual but the leadership of a workplace at risk.

Defining a behavior as problematic in the workplace may mean using federal or state definitions for clarity. As an example, the FBI is responsible in America for investigating, tracking, and prosecuting hate crimes. Their definition of a hate crime is the commonly used standard across the various groups that monitor the trend.

Policies and Procedures

A workplace policy should have a procedure attached, so all members of a workplace understand what is being required of them, consequences of not complying, and how to report problems with the behavior requirement. Especially with a zero-tolerance policy that has significant penalty attached, there should be detailed and specific guidelines for reporting, investigating, and appealing decisions related to the report.

Usually a member of human resources acts as the reporting and investigating officer, and a member of leadership reviews reports and signs off on decisions made under the policy.

Reporting should include the ability to report with whistleblower protections in place, so there is no retaliation either personally or with job actions against reporters. The workplace may decide to offer anonymous reporting, such as a tip line, for some behaviors if there is a concern about retaliation and safety.