Workplace Behavior

Supervisors should create and promote a safe and healthy work environment where organizational behavior standards are upheld with integrity, consistency, and grace.

Healthy Workplace Behaviors

  • Treat men and women equally. For example, acknowledge and work with both men and women fairly.
  • Know the culturally appropriate way to greet, encourage & correct both men and women.
  • Avoid offensive or suggestive language.
  • Avoid jokes about men versus women, race, national origin, religion, disability, or age.
  • Avoid stereotypes. For example, referring to strenuous jobs as “men’s work,” and clerical work as “women’s work.”
  • Be sensitive to the situation and the specific individual involved.
  • Learn the culturally acceptable way to comfort or show concern.
  • In general, make sure any physical touching is done in a culturally appropriate and acceptable way to all involved.
  • Meet in an office with a window in the door, leave the door partially open or, if appropriate, invite a third person to join you.
  • Talk to staff persons in advance to determine if they have any discomfort in taking an overnight trip with a fellow coworker. Follow local policy on this matter.
  • Avoid derogatory ethnic/racial jokes and comments. 
  • Be careful how you tease others based on your relationship and with an awareness of those around you.
  • Don’t make assumptions about a person’s ability to do the job or learn new skills.
  • Avoid stereotyping people because of their race, tribe or ethnic background, or how the media portrays them. 
  • Recognize that people from different countries, tribes and cultures may behave differently.
  • Respect that a person’s native language may not be the dominant language used at the office. 
  • Let the person know  if you are having difficulty understanding them.
  • Don’t describe the person in relation to his/her age.
  • Respect that others may observe different religious holidays or Sabbaths than you.
  • Avoid making judgmental comments.
  • Know how to appropriately refer to a disability.
  • Avoid derogatory words and phrases.
  • Don’t make references to a staff person’s appearance unless you have legitimate business reasons for doing so. 
  • Don’t date or have sexual relationships with staff persons who are under your supervision.
  • Don’t post or allow others to post offensive materials online.

Abusive Behaviors

Bullying can take many forms, including jokes, teasing, nicknames, emails, pictures, text messages, social isolation or ignoring people, and unfair work practices. This behavior does not have to be repeated to be discrimination – it could be a one-time event.

Discrimination is an action or attitude of treating, or proposing to treat, someone unfavorably in the workplace because of a personal characteristic generally protected by the law, but clearly protected by the organization.

Harassment is any unwanted physical, verbal or nonverbal conduct directed to others that offends or humiliates another person, interferes with his or her ability to work, creates a hostile or offensive work environment or leads to adverse job-related consequences (for example, termination, lack of promotion, bad working hours, etc.

Sexual harassment is defined as “unwelcome sexual advances, requests for sexual favors, and other verbal or physical conduct of a sexual nature … when … submission to or rejection of such conduct is used as the basis for employment decisions … or such conduct has the purpose or effect of … creating an intimidating, hostile or offensive working environment.”

SIL International PolicyStaff Behavior Code of Conduct Agreement

Leadership Attitudes & Approaches toward Wrongful Behavior


  • Does my behavior contribute to a positive working environment?
  • Are any of my behaviors at someone else’s expense? How so? Is it light-hearted teasing or personal attacks, etc.?
  • Do my colleagues feel safe and comfortable as they interact with me?
  • Would I want any of my behaviors to appear in the news?
  • Could my behavior send out signals that could invite wrongful, abusive behavior from others?
  • Would I be embarrassed if my family members learned of my conduct?
  • Would I want someone else to act this way toward me or someone I care about?
  • Am I uncertain about how my conduct will be perceived?

Approach to wrongful behavior

  • Set a good example.
  • Educate yourself. 
  • Don’t let wrongful behavior go unchecked – speak up early.
  • Take complaints seriously and follow up appropriately in a timely manner.
  • Report any conversation about wrongful behavior and document it in an email to HR and the staff person.

Procedural Responses to Wrongful Behavior

Immediate Procedural Response

  • Before taking action, consult with HR  to discuss the situation and determine first steps
  • Carefully follow SIL’s Workplace Inquiry Guidelines
  • Keep an open mind and investigate every complaint in an objective and unbiased manner

Response to Potential Victim or Complainant

  • Treat complaining staff person with respect and pastoral care
  • Listen without pre-judging
  • Don’t retaliate or allow retaliation against someone for bringing a complaint or concern forward about someone’s  behavior

Ensuring Safety and Security

  • Work with leaders to ensure the safety of the complainant and his/her co-workers
  • Work with HR before formally suspending a worker
  • Ask staff person to leave the building or location if there are immediate safety issues