After 20 years’ experience in human resources, I have definitely experienced some interesting scenarios. I’m never amazed at what people will do in the workplace, especially after a few drinks. The scenario I’m going to discuss occurred at a work conference. I can see the smile creep across your face – you have been there too and seen how some people behave. A new employee to the business was also there – we can refer to him as ‘Hugh‘. It was a dress up party and he, along with everyone else, was ‘in character’. The night began well with no indication of what was about to happen. He was reluctant to dance but seemed to be having a good time, as was everyone else. I had already gone to bed (can’t quite party like I used to!) when he finally let loose. Over the next hour, before he was finally convinced to leave the party, he had managed to:
- Push a girl on the floor and gyrate on top of her
- Dance very provocatively towards a number of uninterested girls
- Push a fellow against the wall and attempt to kiss him
- Bite a senior manager on the cheek
The trail of destruction had begun. What followed is an interesting example of how to deal with extreme behaviour within your staffing ranks, after the event occurs.
The next morning I was informed of the nocturnal activities and made some discreet inquiries. On Monday, back at the office, we received a formal complaint but had already decided to investigate. The next steps were as follows:
- Hugh was called into a meeting, allowed to bring along a support person and the allegations were shared with him verbally – a written copy of the allegations were then handed to him
- He was advised that a formal investigation was to be conducted, what this process involved and that he was suspended, on full pay until further notice
- All the employees involved were interviewed plus any witnesses. All interviewees had to keep all conversations confidential (any breaches of this would also be investigated)
- We then met with Hugh again to share our findings and for him to respond to the allegations, including any reasons for his behaviour. He was also advised that he was welcome to take legal advice
- All the interviews were then reviewed and assessed. A determination of ‘whether on the balance of probability’ the behaviour had occurred was made.
At this point, we needed to advise Hugh of our findings and, again, ask for a response and that the finding would be one of:
- The behaviour did not occur
- The behaviour did occur but there were extenuating circumstances or the instances were minor in nature
- The behaviour did occur
In this instance, the finding was that the behaviour did occur and Hugh was terminated with notice. I have to say that Hugh was mortified. However, as a result of the fear that some of the employees felt post the experience, and that we could not guarantee that the incident would not reoccur, the decision made was for termination. The way to protect you and your business prior to work functions and conferences, especially when alcohol is involved, is to educate your employees on what is deemed appropriate behaviour and clearly set expectations for that behaviour prior to any business event.