Since reading the phrase recently on a contract of employment, I’ve become obsessed with what actually is ‘gross misconduct’. Just what do you have to do to be guilty of such a crime? This is not a subject that comes up in daily banter across the desktop or dining table, so I’ve not hitherto given it so much thought. Rather, more often it will arise as an occasional reference in a news report or as last week, a perceived threat of instant dismissal in a legal document. But now I’m fixated, and the more I ponder, the more intriguing I find gross misconduct to be. And perhaps a little hilarious, too.
Of course I realise the intellectual explanation is that ‘gross’ is simply borrowed from the German word gross meaning big. ie when it comes to ‘gross misconduct’, we’re talking about serious misdemeanour and not just being a little inappropriate during the office party. But, eschewing the rational, and maybe this is a parent thing, I am drawn to the more childish vision of behaviour that is just plain disgusting! It’s because I’m used to hearing my teenage son’s expression of ‘gross’ to mean anything he finds revolting from the cat’s dinner, to the contents of the food-waste caddy, childbirth, kissing, his little brother’s farts, or even the semi-nudity of anyone over the age of 25 – and we could just be talking the innocent sight of a woman’s bare upper arms flailing in the wind here. Apply this more juvenile contemporary meaning of gross to the act of misconduct and my mind is racing. Are you with me?
I’m envisaging a naked-from-the-waist-up figure prancing around the office as the contents of the stationary cupboard are whisked into a cardboard box destined for the nearest car boot sale… someone discovered daubing graffiti on the lift walls using Kitty Kat gravy… audibly flatulence-laced expletive-ridden announcements over the rail station loudspeaker as another service is declared late… the entire office team taking ‘dress down Friday’ to it’s ultimate undressed conclusion! And so on. Serious, but comical in a Simpsons kind of way. Could make for more amusing proceedings at industrial tribunals?
No? It’s just me then….