21st April 2021

Preventing Inappropriate Behaviour in the Workplace

Inappropriate Behaviour

In preventing inappropriate behaviour, it is essential for managers to encourage a workplace culture where employees support each other and diversity is valued.

Please note, this information is intended as a guide only. Any industrial advice or a course of action should be checked with your manager and your relevant government authority.

Whilst it is important to have strategies in place to manage inappropriate behaviour, be sure to consider your workplace culture. If you create an environment that is diverse, socially inclusive, and fosters civility and respect then discrimination and harassment decreases.

In order to provide a safe and healthy working environment, leaders have an obligation and responsibility to positively promote and demonstrate constructive behaviours and to actively manage inappropriate behaviours, such as:

  • Foul language and cursing – especially if directed at people
  • Any form of harassment
  • Sharing or displaying offensive materials that are demeaning or defamatory
  • Accessing inappropriate internet sites in the workplace
  • Any behaviour (whether at work or outside) that brings the organisation into disrepute
  • Aggressive or negative behaviours that are not in keeping with the values promoted by your workplace
  • Any form of direct or indirect discrimination that targets or maligns anyone with a protected attribute such as a disability or particular religious belief. These attributes include:
    • Age
    • Breastfeeding
    • Employment activity
    • Gender identity
    • Disability
    • Industrial activity
    • Lawful sexual activity
    • Marital status
    • Parental status
    • Status as a carer
    • Physical features
    • Political belief or activity
    • Pregnancy
    • Race or culture
    • Religious belief or activity
    • Sex
    • Sexual orientation
    • Personal association (whether as a relative or otherwise) with a person who is identified by reference to any of the above attributes

Under federal anti-discrimination law an employer, regardless of their size, may be legally responsible for discrimination and harassment which occurs in the workplace or in connection with a person’s employment unless it can be shown that ‘all reasonable steps’ have been taken to reduce this liability. This legal responsibility is called ‘vicarious liability’.

This means that you have an active role to play in the prevention, identification and management of discrimination.

Preventing Inappropriate Behaviours: ACTION LIST


VALUES: Develop a set of organisational values in consultation with employees and communicate these to all team members, including casual front of house and back of house teams. You could also develop a set of ‘team rules’ to outline specific expected behaviours.

INDUCTION: Provide induction to new employees on organisational values. Give examples to explain how these values are demonstrated in practice.

COMMUNICATE: Have leaders regularly communicate to all team members the importance of inclusion within the workplace.

STRATEGY: Develop a dedicated inclusion strategy and action plan for a socially inclusive workplace. Review existing policies and strategies through a lens of inclusivity – do existing policies promote or contradict your goal of inclusion?

TRAIN: Provide equal opportunity training to all employees. This could be as simple as watching a TED talk together and discussing what was raised, or developing scenarios and talking through appropriate and inappropriate responses. Visit the Victorian Equal Opportunity and Human Rights Commission website (opens in new window) for more information on training in this area.

Team Rules


Consider working with your team to develop a set of rules for the workplace that outline expected behaviours. The following rules were suggested as examples by attendees at Creative People Management workshops in 2017:

  • Treat each other with respect
  • Communicate with kindness and honesty
  • Be on time
  • Accept feedback as a gift
  • Respect the absent (do not gossip about people who are not present)
  • Celebrate individual and team accomplishments
  • Raise a problem with a suggested solution
  • Hold meetings with clear agenda
  • No emails before or after a certain time (e.g. after 6pm for arts managers) or on certain days (e.g. Sunday/Monday for performers)
  • No yelling under any circumstances
  • All team members receive invites to team drinks, lunches and social activities
  • Listen first to understand
  • Be transparent: avoid hidden agendas
  • Lead by example
  • Share your knowledge
  • Celebrate debate, difference and diversity
  • Follow through on commitments

Addressing Inappropriate Behaviours: ACTION LIST


Manage the matter at the lowest possible level by encouraging parties to discuss:

  1. The incident
  2. Why it was offensive
  3. New parameters- where the line should be drawn in future
  4. Possible remedies: Offer and accept an apology

If a team member is uncomfortable to do this alone, see if a manager or leader can offer to facilitate the conversation. If there is no direct communication, then you are expected to have a confidential and non-confrontational conversation with the relevant parties to offer support, state the expected behaviours and explain that any recurrence would be formalised. The matter should then be communicated to your direct manager. If you believe the matter should be formalised, escalate to your CEO, director, producer, general manager or Human Resources (if applicable).

Alcohol and other drugs


If you observe an employee who you suspect to be under the influence of alcohol or other drugs, please report this directly and immediately to a manager.


Mother Dirt

Also by The Arts Wellbeing Collective:

Post Tour Adjustment: Getting Back To Home Life

Exercise on Tour: Tips to Get You Moving

Published in Collaboration with The Arts Wellbeing Collective
The Arts Wellbeing Collective
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ABOUT THE CONTRIBUTOR

The Arts Wellbeing Collective is an Arts Centre Melbourne initiative that comprises a consortium of arts and cultural organisations whose shared vision is to effect better mental health and wellbeing for performing arts workers. Our objectives are to: - Improve support services for performing arts workers - Collate and share information - Effect industry cultural change - Improve support networks within and between arts organisations. Our guiding principles are: - Prevention focused, promoting positive mental health and wellbeing, and raising awareness of mental health, mental health problems and the value of early intervention. - Working in partnership, ensuring a variety of partnerships state-wide and across the industry – collaboration is core to the Arts Wellbeing Collective and vital to success. - Creating systems level change, through seeking to understand and address systems, cultures and traditions that contribute to poor mental health and wellbeing in the performing arts. - Long-term thinking, prioritising resources and initiatives that have capacity for long-lasting impact, scalability and transferability. - Knowledge creation and dissemination, working with experts and industry leaders to find, share, create and translate the best available information, tailored for creative contexts. - Encouraging innovation, Arts Centre Melbourne is always learning – we do not have all the answers. We will test, trial, evaluate, and share useful findings with energy and authenticity, and continue to be rigorously planned, strategically responsive and thoughtfully adaptable.

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