Managing Misbehavior in the Workplace

Executive Summary

The concept of quality of life in the workplace environment specifies the conditions that ensure the optimum use of the human performance capacity. Organizations can enhance the quality of the workplace environment by assessing and improving the factors affecting organizational culture.

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These initiatives involve empowering employees, advanced professional training, career advancement programs, executive and management development, the refinement of corporate safety, implementation of efficient communication and ethical behavior among the organization’s associates. As a result of these strategic efforts, human resources receive maximum development and a sense of perceived comfort and security. In turn, the host organization gets the highest level of workforce productivity and maximum profitability (Colling & Terry, 2010).

The quality of workplace environment is verifiable through the members of an organization. They should be able to satisfy their personal needs, achieve personal goals, and realize their aspirations in the course of their employment with this organization. Creation and implementation of programs and methods that enhance the quality of workplace environment are some of the most important aspects of human resources management (Dubrin, 2013).

Unfortunately, in some cases, the satisfaction of personal needs and wants as well as sticking to egocentric behavior by members of an organization might take an extreme form and result in misbehavior (Colling & Terry, 2010). Misconduct can take numerous shapes and entail consequences that range in the degree of disruption. Recognizing, assessing, understanding the risks, and dealing with misbehavior in a timely manner is always a challenge for managers at all administrative levels (Brandon & Robertson, 2007).

The paper will discuss misbehavior, in general, and sexual harassment in particular. I will present this topic based on my personal experience within the United States Air Force. I will discuss the case problem and resolution measures, as well as address the current and forecasted trends.


Successful organizations worldwide have become dedicated to the formation of the healthy operational and cultural environment. It requires the cooperation and compliance with all interested parties. It is evident because nowadays organizations have employees from different cultures. They enter international markets with various consumer preferences and behaviors, and employ multinational staff with their individual values, attitudes, and character peculiarities.

Organizational Behavior and Culture

Organizational culture nowadays is built on the pillars of constructive values (Dubrin, 2013). However, the majority of organizational culture and behavior studies narrow their focus to the formation of positive interaction and implementation of beneficial qualities, like trust, partnership, leadership, respect, proactiveness, ownership, fun, and creativity. These values are capable of mitigating and eliminating the risk of misbehavior and the associated conflicts on their own. If organizations exist to instill and influence such positive values, one would wonder why the society is not changing as fast as it should. It leads to the assumption that perhaps an organization is not doing enough. Perhaps the majority of teams are so focused on profitability and productivity that such matters have no value to them because they do not add money to their balance sheets. This attitude leads to the fact that when facing misbehavior, managers struggle with finding the right approach and decision-making (Colling & Terry, 2010).

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Organizational Misbehavior

Efficient organizational behavior is grounded upon corporate values and their power to guide effective customer-oriented business strategies. Today, competitive organizational goals and customer-oriented policies are a top priority and are only achievable through the unified effort between the management and staff at all levels. There is no doubt that everyone understands the value of workplace productivity and professional performance. Organizational behavior and ethics are that unifying force that makes individuals in the workforce one entity. It creates the image perceived by an organization’s present and potential customers (Pinder, 2014). Misbehavior occurs in environments where employees are not granted their dignified lives and autonomy (Karlsson, 2011). In other words, disrespectful and negligent treatment of employees at work entails grave consequences in the form of organizational and occupational crime.

Misbehavior at the Workplace

Misbehavior always takes advantage of structural and cultural weaknesses in the corporate environment. The organization exists to promote certain attributes in the society. If those misbehavior practices are detrimental, the society may end up following a suit. Individuals who work for organizations come from a larger community that they serve. Misbehavior may appear as “embezzlement, vandalism, sabotage, restriction of output, and goldbricking” (Karlsson, 2011, p. 230). Goldbricking or cyberslacking is the newest form of work misbehavior due to the flooding of computer technology.

Cyberslacking is the use of the Internet during office or work hours for personal reasons (Ivancevich, Konopaske, & Matteson, 2014, pp. 219-220). All forms of misbehavior in the workplace, from arson and bribery to revenge and sexual harassment, should be targeted and prosecuted (Vardi & Weitz (2004, pp. 117-118). The three categories of misbehavior include “deviance, aggression, and political behavior” (Vardi & Weitz (2004, pp. 94).

Sexual Harassment

Sexual harassment belongs to the segment of interpersonal aggression. Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 states that “sexual harassment is a form of sex discrimination” (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2015). It encompasses “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature constitute sexual harassment when this conduct explicitly or implicitly affects an individual’s employment, unreasonably interferes with an individual’s work performance, or creates an intimidating, hostile, or offensive work environment” (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2015). In the fiscal year 2010, men and women filed 7,944 sexual harassment allegations within their workplace.

Both males and females are equally entitled to report and receive protection against sexual harassment. Neither position nor location can prevent the harasser from facing justice for his or her misbehavior. Anyone involved or witnessing sexual harassment can report to the proper authority. The law insists on proving the “unwelcome” nature of the sexual conduct. Therefore, victims are urged to confront their harassers, openly profess that the sexual advances are unwelcome and request to stop them. Also, employers are required to create a system for anonymous reporting and “whistle-blowing” to enable the victims to speak up (Shahira & Widad, 2009). The legal system classifies sexual harassment as follows: “Quid pro quo” (submission to unwanted sexual interaction in exchange for economic or career benefits), “hostile work environment” (when the power imbalances and abusive supervision open room to intimidation and sexual offences), and “psychological” (latent or concealed harassment) (U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, 2015). The third form is the most difficult to address because it is hard to identify, prove or restrain it from the legal point of view (Jackson, Mathis, Meglich, & Valentine, 2015, p. 99). In addition to federal statutes, sexual harassment is also a violation of the Article 92 of the United States military (Uniform Code of Military Justice, 2015).

Sexual Harassment in the US Military

Like the civilian sector, the U.S military has been extremely productive to address this issue with a range of policies and training. In 1991, there was a Tailhook scandal in which more than 100 U.S Naval and Marine officers sexually assaulted 80 plus men and women in Las Vegas, Nevada (Myers, 2000). In 1996, there was the Aberdeen scandal in which 19 army female soldiers were sexually harassed and abused (Newsweek Staff, 1996). The U.S. Secretary of Defense, William J. Perry, established the Department of Defense’s “zero tolerance” policy toward sexual harassment (Perry, 1996).

Specifically within the U.S. Air Force, a designated career field for social actions, 3S1X1-Military Equal Opportunity, was organizationally realigned to report directly to the base commander. It was to provide more visibility and emphasis on equal opportunity programs, as well as improve the leadership’s ability to respond to issues affecting readiness and morale (Windall, 1997). Since then, the U.S. Air Force has instituted a consistent and tiered training strategy for airmen to receive training commensurate with their earned grade and scope of responsibility. The training is deliverable at the critical milestones within their career beginning with the initial training conducted at Basic Military Training (Windall, 1997).

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Basic Military Training indoctrinates new recruits into the military norms and culture of the U.S Air Force. It is here that young airmen get the first introduction to the military’s “zero tolerance” policy which further goes to the development at their first base through the First Term Airman’s Center. It targets how to report sexual harassment without fear of reprisal and how to respond as a bystander (Foster, 2013).

At the next stage, various social situations, including sexual harassment, are explored in the “Leadership and Communication Studies” blocks of Airman Leadership School. These blocks of instruction challenge new supervisors by teaching them not only to confront misbehavior but also to prevent it (2015, pp. 120-123). At the final career stage, international human relations subjects are critical in Senior Noncommissioned Officer Academy. This professional military education serves as a capstone for seasoned airmen and encompasses “big picture” topics, including developing character traits, fostering teamwork and respect, and coping with dynamic changes. Organizations are challenged with mastering these abstract concepts to apply unity of effort and prevention of misbehaviors (2015, pp. 136-138).

Prevention Measures

Prevention is the most efficient mechanism tool to fight sexual harassment in the workplace (Tahmindjis, 2005). Establish a written policy which prohibits sexual harassment in consultation with staff and relevant unions. Frequent communication against the vice helps the team to know how serious the organization takes the matter.

The management should promote the policy at all levels of the organization. It should also ensure the system is readily available. The leadership should also review the policy periodically to ensure it is operational and up to date. Its effectiveness lies in the hands of the entire organization’s workers. The leaders cannot use it as the tool to harm the junior members. The junior members should also abstain from any activity that would otherwise be interpreted to mean that they do not understand their role. If the document is up to date, then it is operational. Open forums are healthy places for expounding the matters in the document. The leadership should organize regular training for the managers and supervisors concerning the same. They also need to discuss and reinforce the policy openly.

Control Measures

As history has shown, the proactive methodology is easier said than done. Incidents can occur even if the organization explicitly prohibits sexual harassment, regularly conducts training discussing this topic, and institutes a system of anonymous reporting. More than 11 years after the debut of “zero tolerance” policies and following aggressive training programs designed to cease and prevent sexual harassment, the U.S. Air Force faltered with the Air Force Academy sexual assault scandal in 2003. Of the 579 female officer cadets enrolled, 19 percent claimed they had been victims of sexual harassment (McIntyre, 2003). In 2013, 59 male and female recruits alleged sexual harassment and other misbehaviors against 32 Military Training Instructors in the Air Force Basic Training scandal (Lardner, 2013). Overall, the problem is that perceived unfair employment treatment and low organizational morale provoke misbehavior.

In turn, unrestricted and unpunished misconduct creates a pattern to be followed by other employees. As a result, it can lead to the collapse of organizational ethics. The truth is that leaders are the real promoters of culture in organizations. If there is a need for change in this area, then the first people to toe the line are supposed to be the top leadership. Once the juniors see that their superiors do not encourage poor work concerning this issue, they will have to make amends for their motives. Culture must also be part of every individual. In this case, the zero tolerance for sexual abuse must be the priority for all the members of the team.

Even watching the news, I did not realize that this misbehavior was a reality in the workplace. The subject of sexual harassment surfaced when one of the female Airmen in my flight asked to terminate her enlistment early. She claimed her working conditions had become unbearable and she had no regard for the legally-binding commitment she made to the U.S Air Force. The request was so out of place that I was determined to discuss her situation in more detail.

In the course of this conversation, she confessed about experiencing frequent sexual harassment inflicted by a junior Noncommissioned Officer with whom she served in a volunteer committee. The NCO suffered a stressful divorce half a year before the reported incident. The cause of the divorce was his wife’s affair with his best friend. He was a devoted family person before, so the NCO could not settle his mind and cope with the adverse change in his life. His personality changed and his values and attitudes now seemed morbid; his job lost its significance and satisfaction. He struggled to keep up his performance despite his growing depression.

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His unresolved issues overwhelmed him and pushed him towards misbehavior that he could not control. He developed an apparent hostility and envy towards all married women; not only his direct subordinates but all his female acquaintances were among them. He did not suggest or request any sexual favors. He never made any substantial advances of sexual nature towards women. The only thing he did on numerous occasions was openly suggesting that each of the females was looking forward to having sex with him or other male Airmen. The lady friend explained that, at first, everyone excused his behavior on account of his stress, and even felt compassion for the poor guy. However, his behavior had overstepped all of the possible boundaries of grief and professionalism. The victim said that she did not believe anything could be done about the problem because the scenario was vaguely within the Air Force’s definition of sexual harassment.

I reassured her that she did not have to tolerate his behavior, and together we reported the incidents immediately to the leadership chain. I am glad to say that the sexual harassment stopped at once as our management took decisive steps towards its solution. The offender was removed from the volunteer committee immediately and ultimately ceased serving in the organization. Before separation, he was mandated to attend counseling. He embraced the therapy provided and successfully changed his attitude upon completion of the required sessions. Now equipped with proper coping skills, he felt compelled to offer an apology to my colleagues at work. Having been on the verge of separating from active duty, she agreed to finish out her enlistment. It is possible to say that the strong organizational commitment against sexual harassment prevented any additional incidents from occurring.

Future Trends

The majority of the organizations and managers that I have worked for genuinely support official policies banning sexual harassment. During the 19 years of service, I have never experienced sexual harassment first-hand, and this was my first encounter with it as a supervisor. It is rare, and I am fortunate. However, it occurs on a regular basis without the victims’ possibility of efficiently reporting the incidents. Harassment is a rather common problem in the workplace environment and a serious threat to its quality. The legal regulation is efficient concerning physical or provable verbal harassment. It can prosecute and punish harassers and help victims. However, subtle psychological harassment flies below the legal radar. The case proves that it needs an appropriate management system to address it through the organization-wide exposure and suppression (Colling & Terry, 2010). Organization-wide monitoring of organizational behavior is supervised by the head of it and is the most efficient mechanism. It helps the firm to move from mere legal compliance to the genuine commitment of building a comfortable and productive working environment for internal stakeholders.

Teams have started bringing the matters to the fore. Previously, even some managers used to negotiate with the offenders and the victims on the possible settlement. Once they agreed, the case was closed and even if there was guilt, it was not visible. It kept the matters rising all the time. The offenders knew that even if they were guilty, they would privately negotiate terms and get away with it (Colling & Terry, 2010). Things have changed for the better. There is potential for improvement even further in the social sector.

Perhaps one cause for alarm should be the media. It has revolutionized the world by bringing different communities with vast differences together. However, it has gone forward to become the main culture teacher. There are various control measures taken by the governments of the world nations to ensure that media plays a role in societal growth. For instance, people watch movies, advertisements, news, and other programs on their television sets. Some channels have not applied measures to what they air. Therefore, they expose both children and adults to programs that portray sexual abuse. People watch this and learn that they can escape the justice system.

However, if the media personalities can use it to teach people the best way to prevent sexual harassment, the society will be on the right track. They are the ones at whom people look comfortably from homes, workplaces, and universal joints. They can play the critical role in ensuring that families are safe from sexual offenders through constant advertisements against the vice.

Society is made up of males, females, and children. Some families have various social setbacks that cause separations, others may lead to divorce. Some problems arise from spouses cheating on their partners. Society members coming from such backgrounds are most often psychologically disturbed. They need close contact with psychologists and sociologists to guide them. If they do not get help immediately, they end up abusing others as a way of retaliation. For instance, there is a case of my female friend who was about to quit her job because of the behavior of a junior officer. It is not a rare case among people who go through stress in relationships. The families of such people should quickly refer them to places where they can get psychological assistance.

Another important aspect that can help to solve this misbehavior is at school. The majority of students in high schools are already conscious of their environment. The syllabus should include teaching students about morals. The training can help to prevent future degradation of the said behaviors. If they learn this in high school and the topic continues right through college, students who undergo this will become the next generation of well-enlightened citizens. They will help fight to stop the problem among their peers and influence the society positively.


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