Each time an incident of misconduct flashes on a company’s radar, most people choose to remain stubbornly silent. Sure, organizations make their best efforts to cleanse the company of wrongdoings by employing tools such as codes of conduct and audits. While these tools come with their own small contributions, bringing in the “real” solution involves going beyond just a lengthy rulebook.
When misconducts fail to see appropriate resolutions, white-collar crimes continue to shoot up within the workforce. But what exactly places an ethical blindfold on victims and witnesses of workplace misconduct?
The most obvious answer: the fear of retaliation. A study by California Law Review revealed that 82% of whistleblowers had to suffer harassment, about 60% had their jobs taken away, and about 17% lost their homes. With so much at stake and millions poured into misconduct prevention, why do companies continue to struggle with this issue? Read on to understand.
Spotting Misconducts in the Workplace
Any form of misconduct stands to harm two parties – the victim or the witness and the company. Here’s a look at some instances of misconduct that can cripple a company if left unaddressed.
- Breach of confidentiality: This can involve cases of corporate espionage where, for instance, an employer shares private company information about business practices, finances, intellectual property, or customer relationships for monetary gains
- Unethical relationships: When a subordinate feels pressured to accept the advances of a supervisor to protect their employment
- When a manager favors one employee over the other simply because the employee has a personal relationship with the manager
- Discrimination and harassment: When employees are mistreated due to their gender, race, nationality, religion, age, or disability
- Cases of sexual harassment: This can be both direct and indirect. For instance, direct harassment occurs when an employee touches a colleague inappropriately. Indirect harassment occurs when a colleague hears two employees engaging in lewd or inappropriate sexual conversation targeted towards them
- Cases of drug abuse
- Instances of fraud or theft
What Gives Employees the Voice to Report Misconducts?
Most employees remain convinced of the “monstrous repercussions” that can hurt their careers if they choose to report any wrongdoing. It is the management’s responsibility to ensure the employees’ protection and empower them to “speak up” by doing the following:
Leaving No Room for Retaliation
Between 2009 and 2017, Gartner collected responses from over 2 million employees from 167 companies. The results showed that almost 60% of wrongdoings that occurred in the workplace went entirely unreported.
A 2018 Hiscox Workplace Harassment Study revealed about 53% of employees cited a hostile work environment as a reason to avoid reporting. If you want your employees to report any misconduct, it’s important to free them from fear of retaliation. Assure them that they will not face any consequences or employment issues if they choose to put a complaint forward. A great way to do so would be to rely on a third-party and anonymous ethics hotline that ensures anonymity and protection. Make sure you also incorporate anti-retaliation policies in your company’s code of conduct.
Anonymous channels of reporting enable employees to reveal issues that wouldn’t otherwise come to light. Since anonymity allows whistleblowers to report incidents quickly, organizations also stand to address the problems before they end up becoming debilitating incidents.
Crafting A Speak-Up Culture
Promoting safety, integrity, and a solid whistleblowing culture can help employees report wrongdoings more easily. Employees will be proactive in reporting instances of misconduct if they feel their company cares not just about its assets but also about the protection of its people.
Ask yourself, “does your company tolerate or not tolerate toxic behavior?” Are the people who question and report considered heroes or misfits? What is the tone and tolerance of top management like? Use a non-judgmental approach to help employees voice their concerns without hesitation. Companies can even hold regular sessions to help employees find the confidence to voice their concerns.
Making Reporting Procedures Crystal Clear
Companies with strong ethical cultures have solid whistleblowing policies and procedures in place. These rules and regulations guide employees who want to report concerns about something or someone within the workplace. Simply creating these policies, however, is not enough to promote a strong whistleblowing culture in the company. Companies need to go the extra mile to ensure every employee understands and knows how exactly to go about these procedures. Make sure you list the reporting process throughout the office and make the hotline number easily accessible for employees.
Unlocking Multiple Channels to Report
To make an employee feel protected when they’re reporting something, companies can offer several channels like hotlines, website forms, chatbots, and phone apps. The goal of incorporating any reporting channel is to make reporting as easy and anonymous as possible. Many employees prefer reporting wrongdoings with a group of people as opposed to going through the procedure alone. In such a case, companies must also offer channels that facilitate group reporting.
Incorporating Misconduct Reporting Into Onboarding & Training Processes
Employee onboarding and training is a great opportunity to inculcate the importance of misconduct reporting among new hires. Whistleblowing training during onboarding familiarizes employees with:
- What behaviors fall under the umbrella of misconduct
- How they can go about reporting any wrongdoing
- How the company ensures their protection (and anonymity if the company incorporates a third-party ethics hotline)
- How the company will handle misconduct reports
Make Way For A Happier and Healthier Workplace Culture
Unaddressed wrongdoings are poisonous glitches that snowball into massive growth roadblocks blocks the way for a happier and healthier workplace. Companies thrive when workplaces turn into safe and productive work havens. Regardless of factors like age or position, wrongdoers must be subjected to appropriate disciplinary action. When whistleblowers and victims speak up against misconduct, they unknowingly set the precedent for others who may deal with similar events down the line.
Sticking to a zero-misconduct goal takes companies high up on the ethical ladder, creates a secure environment for existing employees, cuts down employment issues, and attracts valuable talents in the future.