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The Institute Of Leadership And Management Turn To Gullands

Gullands Solicitors is often asked to contribute articles and comment to the wider press. In November, Edge magazine, the monthly publication from The Institute of Leadership and Management invited Amanda Finn to contribute to its ‘Asks the Experts’ column.

Question

A member of Dan’s Department is a bit of a practical joker, sending emails and playing pranks around the office. Most people enjoy his antics, but one member of staff thinks it’s distracting and wants it stopped. How does he manage the situation?

Answer

Much of the answer to this question will depend upon the nature of the pranks and emails, the policies in force in the office and, ultimately, which member of staff the company least wants to lose.

It is assumed that the emails and pranks are in no way discriminatory, so it will simply come down to whether Dan wishes to make the behaviour stop or not, potentially losing the member of staff who finds it distracting (for ease of reference calling him Bill). Should that not be the case then Dan will be obliged to discipline the practical joker. Failure to invoke a disciplinary process in this situation could lead to Bill claiming that he has been victimized by the joker and that the company has turned a blind eye to it. Damages from these sorts of actions can be high, including a personal injury element and an amount for injury to feelings.

Most offices nowadays have policies on staff behaviour and use of the internet during work time. Dan’s first step should be to check out those policies and see exactly what is and is not allowed. Dan should initially have a quiet word with the practical joker, saying that much as his efforts are amusing they are distracting people and perhaps he should seek to tone it down during work hours.

If this quiet word doesn’t do the trick then Dan will have to consider whether the situation is such that he needs to invoke the disciplinary process. Check any internal process as well as checking the ACAS code that provides not only required elements but good practice on these matters. He should also check and see what the joker has on his disciplinary record.

Dan’s second problem is that many offices have policies which are more observed in the breach than the observance. If Dan chooses to bring all the forces of the disciplinary policy down on the practical joker’s head, it may be claimed that he is being singled out when he is one of many who use the internet in this way. Is the firm disciplining those that forward on the spoof emails within the firm as well as their originator?  Ultimately any disciplinary process should only result in a minor disciplinary sanction.

For more information please contact Amanda Finn at Gullands by email: a.finn@gullands.com.