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Risk of unhappy employees to reputation

If an employee is unhappy with their job or employer, there are inherent risks to the reputation of that employer. As a result, it is imperative that these risks are recognised and, where possible, pre-empted, to prevent them from becoming much more serious and potentially damaging the reputation of an organisation.

What effect can unhappy employees have in the workplace?

On a practical, day-to-day level, it can be very difficult to manage an unhappy employee. No matter what the reason for their unhappiness, it can often unintentionally lead to a dampening of a teams morale (even if that stems from a general concern about their colleagues wellbeing). It can potentially cause friction and disagreement within teams and lead to decreased efficiency, which can in turn affect, in the most extreme of cases and quite possibly in smaller organisations, the overall financial performance of the organisation.

What steps can organisations take to mitigate the risk of an unhappy employee?

It is important that organisations carefully monitor employee satisfaction and address issues that arise swiftly and fairly, so that employees feel that they are being heard and respected, and to avoid potential damage to their reputation further down the line. This can be achieved by various methods, including:

  • Promoting and maintaining a positive working environment and culture
  • Placing high importance on employee satisfaction
  • Encouraging staff to communicate their concerns in a safe environment
  • Maintaining transparency of the organisations goals (where possible and appropriate)
  • Celebrating individual and team success

When might the risk become more serious?

Most unhappy employees will not pose any real risk to a businesss reputation as generally their unhappiness will be contained within the companys walls. However, when a situation gets out of hand, the potential consequences can pose a significant liability to the company itself. This can be a notable concern when an individuals employment has been terminated by the company (or indeed, an individual with whom a current employee was particularly close) and they are feeling particularly resentful as a result.

Whilst there are several possible things a disgruntled employee could do to vent their spleen, one that would have a marked impact upon the reputation of a company would be the stealing and publishing of confidential, and potentially compromising when taken out of context, internal company information, including:

  • Emails
  • Private documents relating to the firm
  • Confidential client information
  • Strategic plans

Not only does this have serious ramifications for the business, but these can also breach various contractual laws.

What action can an organisation take against an employee?

The steps that can be taken in situation where an employee is a risk to the firms reputation are straightforward. However, it is important that an employer follows the guidance set out in the the Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration (ACAS) Code of Practice on discipline and grievances at work (see below for more information in this respect), otherwise, if the matter escalates to court or a tribunal, findings could be made against the employer which might invalidate the dismissal of an employee.

If you have concerns about the conduct of an employee, which serves to compromise the reputation of your company, you can raise these by starting a formal disciplinary action against them. Your companys disciplinary procedure should be set out clearly in writing and made available to all employees, stating the sort of behaviour which may lead to disciplinary action and what this might entail. The procedure should also set out the details of someone that an employee can speak to if they do not agree with the disciplinary decision.

What are the rights of the unhappy employee?

The ACAS code of practice sets out certain steps that an employers disciplinary procedure should include the following to ensure that the employees rights are correctly protected throughout the process:

  • A letter to the employee setting out the issue
  • A meeting with the employee to discuss that issue
  • Making a disciplinary decision in relation to the employees conduct
  • Giving the employee the opportunity to appeal that decision

You should be aware that, whilst it is not obligatory to follow the ACAS code of practice, your organisation will run the risk of having to make a larger pay-out of damages to the employee if you lose the case against them at an employment tribunal and have not followed this process.

The information on this website is intended as a guide and does not constitute legal advice. Vardags do not accept liability for any errors in the information on this website, nor any losses stemming from reliance upon the statements made herein. All articles and pages aim to reflect the legal position at time they were published, and may have been rendered obsolete by subsequent developments in the law. Should you require specialist advice, tailored to your situation, please see how Vardags can help you.

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