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Blog - How “Inappropriate” does Inappropriate Behaviour need to be, for Organisations to take action?

How “Inappropriate” does Inappropriate Behaviour need to be, for Organisations to take action?

Posted by Tracy Powley 16/05/16

Face ExpressionsInappropriate behaviour in the workplace is constantly in the headlines. In the last week alone we had stories of an MP allegedly suggesting to a woman they “dance crotch to crotch”, the CiPD have reported shocking discriminatory comments overheard regularly at work and London has hosted an anti-corruption summit to address unethical behaviour across all sectors...

And yet focussing on behaviour, and particularly dealing with unacceptable behaviour, never quite seems to make it to the top of organisation agendas. Instead, action is only taken when a crisis happens or an incident hits the headlines. Horse and bolted spring to mind...

So why is this?

  • Is it because organisations don’t understand the consequences? (and there are many...from reputational damage to strained relationships and lack of trust and the associated effect on morale, teamwork and performance)
  • Is it because senior leaders don’t recognise themselves as culprits? (or somehow think behavioural standards don’t apply to them?... the behavioural framework is just for “the rest of the workforce”)
  • Is it because managers think focusing on nurturing the right behaviours is just common sense? Because surely everyone gets how to behave appropriately? (If they did, we wouldn’t have the incidents and headlines above!)
  • Or perhaps it is that when something untoward does happen, that managers think it is HR’s job to fix it – so they don’t tackle it?

We suspect that all these play a part. But that at the real root of the issue is a lack of confidence and skills to address situations when they arise.

Many organisations have a policy or code of conduct. Managers and team members know it exists – they may even be able to tell you a couple of the values or behaviours included, but they actually have no idea how to really make them meaningful and ensure they drive the right day-to-day and “in the moment behaviours”.

And often, if they have a sense that something is not quite right or they have observed behaviour which crosses the line in some way, they are not sure where to start in dealing with it.

And it is not just new and inexperienced managers who struggle... we know plenty of senior managers (being paid substantial salaries to manage) who still shy away from tackling performance issues.

The answer then, surely, is to develop skills and offer support - I know, we would say that, wouldn’t we?! But unless organisations make this a clear priority, we will continue to see inappropriate behaviour damaging organisations, working relationships and affecting people’s lives.

We would love to hear your views...

To see how we have helped a range of organisations address inappropriate workplace behaviour take a look at our case studies or our support for managers. Or call us for a confidential chat on 01903 732 782 or email us




Tracy Powley
Tracy Powley

The way we behave towards each other in the workplace has a direct impact on individual wellbeing, team performance and organisational results. This belief has underpinned our work at Focal Point for over 20 years and has never been more relevant. We are privileged to work with a huge variety of organisations wanting to get workplace behaviour and culture right - and to tackle the inappropriate behaviour that may get in the way of this. Supported by our fantastic team of facilitators and coaches, we are able to make a real difference to peoples’ lives as well as organisational performance. Having worked in both large businesses at management level and in 2 start ups at director level, I am able to combine hands on experience of growing and managing teams - and the associated challenges in creating the right culture - with over 20 years in learning and development. I hold the Certificate in Training Practice and am a member of CIPD. When I am not supporting clients or developing the Focal Point business, you will find me in a calming yoga class...

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