Dealing with possible employee misconduct

ripped offI received a question from one of my followers this morning about how to handle an employee’s possible misconduct:

Question: Recently one of my assistant managers decided to delete emails from a couple of business users email accounts. What would be the appropriate course of action to take? I would investigate then fire this person. However, I know if I kept him, he would probably be more loyal in the future, , ,even grateful? 
Need some advice.

My response: 
Thank you for your message. Here are some things to consider:

First, IT employees deleting any emails of others (especially our clients) should be prohibited unless you make a corporate decision to purge email from time to time, , , such as all email older than 2 years, etc. as decided by a senior management committee that represents users, senior management and IT.

Second, you probably want to find out why the employee deleted the email messages. It could be he thought this was not only appropriate but needed for a valid reason. He may even have deleted the messages as a request of the client. There could be many valid reasons, , , you need to understand the reasoning behind it.

Third, unless the act was for something illegal or unethical, I would never fire the employee for a first offense. Even then, you may not want to take such harsh action if you think the employee was possibly not aware his action was improper. However, depending upon the circumstances surrounding the email deletions, I would certainly coach and council the employee and make it clear this type of act will have serious consequences in the future, , , and be sure to spell out what those consequences are.

Quite often, an employee isn’t completely aware that his actions are improper, especially if a client has requested it. The key here is to get underneath the issue to determine why email messages were deleted and take appropriate action based upon what you learn.

Hope this helps,

There are a few issues that would warrant terminating an emp0loyee on the first offense, but they are few and far between from my experience. I try to always give the person the benefit of the doubt when facing questionable situations, , , whether it is an employee, a client, or a senior manager I work for.

People make mistakes, , , all of us do. It’s important that a company develops managers who are supportive and help minimize these type of mistakes. More importantly though it’s important for the company to have a culture where people aren’t threatened every time they make a mistake and see management focused to support them and help them succeed.

Management is about coaching, , , it requires continuous coaching and reinforcement to get the results you want as well as the behavior you expect from your team.

What would you do in this case? I’m interested in your perspective and thoughts! You can add a Reply in the box below.

4 responses to “Dealing with possible employee misconduct

  1. I remember my first big mistake at my first job – I accidentally deleted a month’s worth of transaction detail. The boss was on vacation, so I had a few days before the real axe would fall; but I managed to fix the problem by then. When he came back, all I got was “Good job fixiing it; don’t let it happen again.”

    • Todd,
      I’m sure we all remember that “sinking feeling” when we hit the wrong key and suddenly realized how big a mistake we have just made. You were a great young resource and from what I recall made very few mistakes. Nice job, but don’t let it happen again. 🙂

  2. Thanks. I was confused on this. thanks for your coach.

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