How Whistleblower Hotlines Prevent Workplace Trauma

How hotlines prevent workplace trauma

Psychological injuries are a growing concern for employers

Employers today are working hard to provide healthy workspaces where stress is kept to a minimum. Remaining aware of situations that can cause injury, psychological or physical, is the essential first step to preventing them in the future.

Psychological injury can cost organizations in lost time, money, productivity, and can come with the risk of workers compensation claims.

Workplace trauma-induced mental injury has long been associated with occupations like firefighting, policing, and the military. Now, the acceptance of trauma developed from a toxic job or workplace is increasingly recognized throughout the workforce as a serious issue.

Research has shown that trauma is widespread among employees in any industry, beyond the high-risk/high-stress jobs. Psychological injury can happen for many reasons and it's often overlooked or ignored.

What can cause psychological trauma? There are a variety of common workplace situations that can cause psychological trauma, including workplace violence, sexual harassment, racism, discrimination or a toxic culture that negatively reacts to situations like natural disasters, or loss of a family member.

What are employees experiencing when faced with psychological injury?

  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
  • Depression
  • Phobias or problems adjusting
  • Other anxiety disorders

Many organizations are taking workplace-induced trauma more seriously despite it's lack of clinical designation. And with younger workers starting to enter the workforce, this generation is more vocal about mental, physical, and safety struggles, and tend to gravitate to social media to speak-up about whatever they want. This makes it even more crucial that employers provide the ability to safely speak-up at work so they can avoid unnecessary bad press.

Many employees who leave their toxic workplaces do so because they didn't have a place to speak-up, and feared doing so even if they were encouraged to. They may still face struggles with psychological trauma and bring these struggles into their new place of work. Providing a safe space for employees to speak-up, anonymously if needed, is such an incredibly important action employers can take to help protect their valuable employees.

How speak-up helplines help prevent workplace trauma

Speak-up helplines, or whistleblower helplines, help defend against misconduct, and help employees who are working through a traumatizing event give voice to their concerns. 

A speak-up helpline provides a missing link between employees and their employers when it comes to communication. It's also an important building block to creating a more inclusive workplace:

Helplines help create a resilient workplace culture
Employers are now understanding the importance of promoting openness on mental health. By providing a reporting helpline that gives employees the ability to share concerns or report on misconduct, can provide management with important intelligence into the workplace and exactly how employees are handling their day-to-day environment. Management can them better identify problem areas or workers that could be creating a toxic environment.

Helplines reduce stigma about speaking up on sensitive issues
It's never easy to speak-up about wrongdoing. But when that wrongdoing also affects the mental health of employees, the challenges are greater. Helplines provide a safe place that allows employees to anonymously voice any concerns in a comfortable environment. Helpline agents are trained in empathetic approaches and are there to help the reporting employee through the reporting process.

Using your helpline and case management to communicate effectively

  • Most reporting programs are augmented with a case management system that provides management and the reporting employee with a two-way dialogue while keeping each party anonymous. Management and employees can have open conversations with each other, management can ask additional questions to learn more about the reported case, and employees can safely provide any additional details about their concern knowing they can always remain anonymous.
  • While anonymously communicating with the reporting employee, it's still important that management is respectful of others’ life experiences. Every person is going to handle situations in different ways resulting from past experiences, race, culture, age, gender, etc. Recognizing that a person's trauma my stem from 'what has happened to them' , not because 'what is wrong with them', can greatly affect how the conversation progresses and how any wrongs can be fixed.
  • Open and safe communication will build healthy relationships and workplace cultures. Interacting with each other and recognizing each others' personal experiences equals treating each other with dignity and respect. When communicating with whistleblowers, helpline agents are trained to express kindness, patience and acceptance. And this is also important when management communicates with whistleblowing employees, either anonymously or face to face.
  • When following up on a reported concern and communicating with the reporting employee, focus on the facts of the concern, and not the person who reported the issue, or the person for whom the issue is about. Like a jury will provide a verdict based on the evidence provided, a case management system will help management understand the facts and data provided about a concern and be able to initiate a responsible and fair conclusion. 

A traumatic or stressful workplace event can cause different psychological injury to employees due to their varying emotional responses and past experiences. Companies should be focusing on creating an open, honest, and unbiased workplace that encourages every employee to speak-up no matter the issue at hand. Click here to learn how to respond to employees concerns with an open and diverse mindset.


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photo Amanda Nieweler
About the Author
Amanda writes for WhistleBlower Security about ethics, compliance, workplace culture, and whistleblower hotlines. Amanda brings her nearly two decades of risk and compliance experience to the WBS blog where she is dedicated to helping people and companies promote speak-up cultures.

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