Transgressive behaviour in the workplace

Transgressive behaviour in the workplace

#MeToo, the drama surrounding The Voice of Holland, the fear culture at De Wereld Draait Door, and so on. The news and social media are teeming with stories about transgressive behavior in the workplace. But what is the employer’s role when it comes to transgressive behavior? You can read about it in this blog.

What is transgressive behavior?

Transgressive behavior refers to a person’s behavior where another person’s boundaries are not respected. This could include sexual harassment, bullying, aggression, or discrimination. Cross-border behavior can take place both online and offline. Particular transgressive behavior may initially appear innocent and not meant to be annoying, but it often harms the other person on a physical, emotional, or mental level. This damage can cause serious health problems for the person involved but ultimately damage the employer in the form of job dissatisfaction and increased absenteeism. It should therefore be evident in the workplace what behavior is appropriate or inappropriate and what the consequences are if these boundaries are crossed.

Obligations of the employer

Under the Working Conditions Act, employers must ensure a safe working environment. The employer must take measures to prevent and counter transgressive behavior. Employers commonly deal with this by following a behavior protocol and appointing a confidential advisor. In addition, you must set a good example yourself.

Conduct protocol

An organization must have clarity about the boundaries that apply within the corporate culture and how the instances where these boundaries are crossed are handled. Not only does this ensure that employees are less likely to cross these boundaries, but employees who encounter transgressive behavior know that their employer will protect them and make them feel safer. Such protocols should therefore make apparent what behavior is expected from employees and what behavior falls under transgressive behavior. It should also include an explanation of how an employee can report transgressive behavior, what steps the employer takes after such a report and what the consequences are of transgressive behavior in the workplace. Of course, it is essential that employees know this protocol’s existence and that the employer acts accordingly.


By appointing a confidant, employees have a point of contact to ask questions and make reports. A fiduciary therefore aims to provide guidance and support to employees. The confidant can be either a person within or independent from outside the organization. A confidant from outside the organization has the advantage that they are never involved in the problem, which may make them easier to approach. As with the behavior protocol, employees must be familiar with the confidant and how to contact them.

Corporate culture

The bottom line is that the employer needs to ensure an open culture within the organization where such issues can be discussed and employees feel they can call each other to account for undesirable behavior. Therefore, the employer should take this subject seriously and show this attitude to its employees. This includes taking steps if a report of cross-border behavior is made. These steps should depend very much on the situation. Still, it is important to show both the victim and other employees that cross-border behavior in the workplace will not be tolerated.

As an employer, do you have questions regarding introducing a policy on transgressive behavior in the workplace? Or are you, as an employee, a victim of transgressive behavior at work, and your employer is not taking sufficient steps? Then contact us! Our employment lawyers will be happy to help you!


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