5 Easy Ways to Identify and Prevent Workplace Misconduct in 2023

Workplace misconduct can take shape in various forms. Sometimes it looks like fraud. Other times it looks like harassment. Other times it may look like racism or sexism.

In any form, workplace misconduct substantially harms the organization. Harvard Business School research found that organizations who refuse to hire toxic employees — even “rainmakers” — see a 3x return on their bottom line.” That’s why it’s extremely important for organizations to take necessary steps to prevent, identify, and act on it

In this article, we’ll walk through key strategies, best practices, and technological solutions that companies can use to identify and prevent workplace misconduct to ensure a culture of adherence.

Force Employees to Take PTO

People who embezzle often may appear like a great worker to an untrained eye. They are usually the first people in the office in the morning and the last one out at night. They rarely, or never, take a day off.

This is because “embezzlement requires constant attention,” reports Inc.com. The article continues, “having someone else fill in for an employee when he or she is out of the office can help you suss out things that may be amiss…. While it may not seem worth it to cross train and send people out of the office for one to two weeks, understand that fraud and embezzlement are expensive. Hiscox says the average theft comes to $357,650.”


  • It’s inexpensive to do
  • It’ll give employees time to rest and recharge, which is good for them


  • It requires planning in advance for time off and cross training team members
  • Not all organizations have paid time off
  • Some employees who don’t have paid time off cannot afford not to work

Look for Behavioral Signs

Detecting fraud that hasn’t already been caught can be tricky. Finances Online shared some common behaviors companies can use to detect fraud. This includes living beyond means, financial hardships, unusually close relationships with vendors or customers, control issues, unwillingness to share responsibilities, family problems like divorce, and dishonest or skeezy behaviors or acting irritably or defensively.


  • It’s inexpensive


  • Really hard to spot signs or connect the dots in the moment
  • Behavioral signs aren’t “proof” or “evidence”
  • Not everyone who sees or report signs are believed  
  • Can lead to undeserved suspicion (i.e. being weary of people going through a divorce when they aren’t committing crimes because it’s a “behavioral sign”)

Diversify Interviewers in Hiring Process

Research shows that although 59% of managers said it was important to know an applicant’s stance on gender before hiring them, only 27% of said they had ever passed on a candidate for problematic views on gender equality.

That’s why having a diverse group of interviewers can be a first line of defense against misconduct. While it’s easy to put on a show during the hiring process to conceal misconduct like sexism, racism, or religious intolerance, not all people do. Having a diverse group of interviewers can help organizations gather insights into how candidates treat different kinds of people.

One red flag is candidates ignoring women interviewers, even if they are the most senior employee in the room. Another is not being able to look women or other historically marginalized employees in the eye or refusing to shake hands. Another is making harmful stereotypical comments about interviewers, like “who is really in charge here?” or “I don’t know how you ladies get any work done with the office so close to the mall.”


  • It’s free
  • Increases the changes historically marginalized or underrepresented candidates get hired
  • It’s a great hiring best practice anyway


  • Other evaluators need to listen to underrepresented interviewers who spot signs of misconduct, which doesn’t always happen
  • People need to believe when underrepresented interviewers say they were mistreated, which doesn’t always happen
  • If a marginalized interviewer is mistreated by a candidate and that candidate is hired, the underrepresented employee could disengage or feel further disrespected

Train Employees

Sometimes, making people aware of behaviors that are appropriate and ones that aren’t compliant is enough to guide people professional behaviorals. In these instances, training may seem like a great option.

However, Harvard Business Review studied the impact of employee training programs on sexual harassment and discovered that not only did the training not reduce this type of misconduct, it normalized misconduct, increased worker disaffection, and resulted in employee turnover. Even worse, HBR shared that these “forbidden-behavior training programs” ended up decreasing diversity in leadership. “The representation of white women in management drops by more than 5% over the following few years,” they said.


  • Teaches employees how to handle a variety of situations in compliant ways


  • Normalizes misconduct among men prone to harassment
  • Does not improve misconduct behaviors
  • Leads to increased employee hostility and turnover
  • Negatively impacts diversity

Test for Drugs

Substance abuse by employees costs U.S. companies $100 billion a year. It also increases poor decision making, which can lead to other types of misconduct like theft, drug sales to other employees, and destructive cover-ups.

Aside from individual behaviors, the use of certain drugs or medicinal products is prohibited or regulated for many jobs or industries. For example, professional athletes are prohibited from using steroids or other performance-enhancing medications.

Testing employees for drugs can be a great way to maintain compliance and reduce misconduct related to substances or substance-abuse.


  • May help organizations comply with industry or job requirements
  • A good barrier that prevents substance abusers from joining the organization
  • Can proactively identify drug abusers, which can lead to them getting the right help


  • Historically, people have found ways to “cheat” some of these tests
  • It may not be relevant for certain jobs or industries
  • If tests aren’t continuous, people may detox in before the test and then restart after hiring
  • It doesn’t catch people who are selling drugs
  • Tests only catch substances that are being tested for

Adopt Technological Solutions to Identify, Prevent, and Navigate Workplace Misconduct

Adopting technological solutions to identify, prevent, and navigate instances of workplace misconduct are crucial. These solutions exist in many forms - some of which you may already have in place.

For example, traditional Background Checks help companies assess all kinds of histories including educational, financial, legal, work, and more, which can be a great way to validate whether a candidate was honest on their resume or in interviews as well as indicate past misconduct.

Reference Checks may also provide insight into any past misconduct by getting some background on the candidate from past bosses or coworkers. That said, most people now only send reference requests to people they know will only say good things. This can hinder an organization’s efforts to gather the insights they desire.

Many organizations today leverage Whistleblower Solutions to surface ongoing crimes. These solutions are great for reporting and navigating crimes in a compliant way. The downside is that these solutions often work to uncover ongoing crimes, which means a crime will have already been in progress before the organization discovers it.

Finally, Online Screening tools today now incorporate some of the more modern best practices and strategies with the latest technologies to help organizations both prevent and uncover ongoing instances of misconduct. By searching publicly available online information before someone is hired and ongoing throughout their employment, organizations and investors can understand past and present behaviors that would negatively impact the company - including whether someone is threatening others on social media, was mentioned in the news for committing a crime, and more.


  • Technology can do the heavy lift of detecting misconduct, saving you time and money
  • Technological solutions can help you remain compliant throughout the process


  • There are so many types of solutions that do different things
  • Buying these kinds of solutions can be lengthy and sometimes expensive depending on the solution  


In summary, there are so many ways to prevent and identify workplace misconduct. Between forcing employees to take vacations, training employees on compliant behaviors, and implementing the right technological solutions, organizations can set themselves up for success.

For more information on technology solutions check out our recent article on 5 Types of Work Tech Solutions to Identify and Prevent Workplace Misconduct (and the Pros & Cons of Each).