COMMENT | Disruptive behaviour at public forums or events is totally inappropriate and unacceptable as it interferes with the functions and flow of the events. The disruptive behaviour includes, but are not limited to, demeaning conversations and communications, the use of profane or disrespectful language, cursing, yelling, screaming, shouting in anger, belittling, throwing objects at others, waving arms or fists, bullying and being intimidating.
At the workplace, interfering with the work of others, indulging in unnecessary and excessive casual chatting during working hours, deliberately interfering with production processes, holding unauthorised meetings on company premises, interrupting meetings, disturbing and/or preventing the process of investigation and participating in an illegal strike are examples of conducts which are totally unacceptable.
Being disrespectful to one’s superior, defying his authority, exhibiting outbursts of anger and frustration towards the company’s management, engaging in sarcastic communications with a hostile tone and sending angry or derogatory e-mails to the superior among others are conducts which constitute misconduct which could lead to disciplinary sanctions.
Apart from affecting the cordial relationship between the employee, his superior and co-workers, such behaviour may result in the delivery of poor service to clients and in certain instances, could even result in damage to the employer’s property.
Any disregard of the standard of behaviour which an employer has the right to expect of his employees can result in the employee’s dismissal from employment and this can be illustrated with reference to the following awards of the Industrial Court. In Aoba Technology (M) Sdn Bhd v Tan Kian Wooi (2007), the Industrial Court held that the claimant had acted disrespectfully towards the deputy general manager, who was his immediate superior, when he had slammed the dustbin in front of him.
Again, in Vasuthevan A/L Sivagurunathan v Taiyo Resort (Kl) Berhad & Anor (2000), the appellant was found guilty of intentionally interrupting, disturbing and/or preventing the process of the investigation conducted by the management against him. Such behaviour according to the Industrial Court was unbecoming and had an effect on the cordial relationship between the superior and the co-workers.
In Harianto Effendy Zakaria & Ors v Mahkamah Perusahaan Malaysia & Anor (2011), in the process of picketing, the applicants who were the employees of the second respondent, had stood by the main entrance of the premises and created a nuisance by their unruly behaviour. They had not only obstructed the free passage of the customers into the premises but had also blown whistles and air horns. Their actions had brought the bank into disrepute amongst its customers and other employees.
It was held that the applicants had conducted themselves in a manner that had led to the disruption of the company’s business and operations and that it had also caused disrepute to the second respondent’s image as a premier financial institution in the country. The misconduct of the appellants’ had been serious enough to warrant their dismissals and their length of service and previous records of clean service could not assist them in mitigation against the harsh punishment.
Lastly, in Jong Siew Fah v Crystal Realty Sdn Bhd (2006), the claimant was alleged to have been rude towards her immediate supervisor by banging the table and slamming the door to demonstrate her rudeness. The Industrial Court held that “rudeness in a workplace is the highest form of disrespectful behaviour and disobedience which should not be tolerated by any employer.
The claimant’s rudeness has gone beyond tolerance as it is manifested by her banging the table and slamming the door to demonstrate her rudeness. By her misconduct, she has deemed herself to be a liability to her employer than being an asset, which is always an employer’s wish”.
It is noteworthy that whether or not the disruptive behaviour of the employee justifies dismissal, this will depend on several factors such as the nature and degree of the alleged misbehaviour; the position held by the employee and the effect on the confidential relationship between the parties, among others.
The punishment meted out against the employee has to be proportionate with the nature and gravity of the misconduct committed. In short, creating a nuisance at the workplace, interfering with the work of others, interrupting meetings or training sessions, participating in an illegal strike among others, are behaviour which no employer would tolerate.
Such inappropriate or unacceptable behaviour could lead to disciplinary sanctions up to and including dismissal from employment.
ASHGAR ALI ALI MOHAMED is a law professor at the International Islamic University Malaysia (IIUM).