Off the clock behavior

Off the clock behavior

Q:  Last week you discussed scenarios where people can get fired for behavior outside of working hours.  This left me feeling like we have to watch ourselves even when we’re not at work or we may lose our jobs. Those firings sound so subjective, am I right to feel paranoid?

A:  I know it may seem arbitrary but there is a rhyme and reason to these firing decisions.

There are actually a myriad of factors to consider, not just the behavior, but the context: the employee’s history with the company; the type of job and type of employer.  Here are some examples:

 Is the position public-facing? – An elementary school teacher or a police officer who engages in socially unacceptable behavior -like sexual indiscretions, recreational drug use-  would certainly be jeopardizing their jobs.  Whereas the same behavior may not jeopardize another job –for example a dispatcher– in the same institution.  That’s because the public expects more from certain positions.

Is the questionable behavior job-related?–  Accountants for example are especially vulnerable to any kind financial wrongdoing outside of work.  Writing a bad check, or filing for bankruptcy may cost an accountant their job while it may go unnoticed in other jobs.

Type of employer.  Sometimes it’s not the type of job, but the type of employer.  Take a server working at a small Mom and Pop restaurant with a regular clientele, who gets a DUI over the weekend.  That  job is in more jeopardy than the same server with the same DUI at a chain restaurant frequented by tourists.

Is the employee trustworthy? – I know someone who was fired because they posted pictures of themselves on Facebook having a great time by the pool…. after calling-in sick that day.  What got them fired was not the behavior, but the dishonesty.  Contrast that with another employee I knew, who was arrested for a drug related crime.  He immediately came in, explained the situation and why he was innocent. Not only did we not fire him, we wrote a letter of support to the court. Were we naïve? No, he was a trustworthy long-tenured employee and was eventually cleared.  Being known for his honesty allowed us to give him the benefit of the doubt.

So don’t feel like you have to be paranoid about losing your job.  Just keep in mind that the type of work you do, who you work for, how the public sees you, and what your company history is, will determine how much latitude you are given –if God forbid- you ever use poor judgment off-the-clock.

©Copyright Eva Del Rio

Eva Del Rio is creator of HR Box™ – tools for small businesses and startups. Send questions to Eva@evadelrio.com

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