How to Handle Inappropriate Whistleblower Reports
A whistleblower report came in about what?!?
You've implemented a whistleblower third-party ethics reporting system.
You know that whistleblower tips are the #1 method of detecting fraud and abuse. Your employees are a valuable source of information on the inner workings of the company, and you've worked hard to ensure they feel comfortable coming forward to file a report in your system.
Things are running swiftly along. You're receiving legitimate anonymous reports and because of them, policies and processes are being improved, making the company more successful.
One day, you get a notification of a new report that's been filed. You go in to have a look.
... is this for real?...
After getting over your initial shock of realizing that someone actually took the time to write this - rude, inappropriate, out of line, irrelevant - report, you've got to do something about it.
It now exists in your system, so now what?
There's a couple of scenarios here.
Chances are, it's a former employee who's (more than a little) ticked off with the company. It can happen. This is where a thorough 'exit' strategy comes in handy.
If an employee is in the process of being fired or terminated for some reason, there's no telling what kind of feelings they will have about the situation. In some instances it can be a tricky situation - news media have covered many different, and heartbreaking, stories.
It's never impossible that some may resort to revenge.
Revenge in the form of filing a crude report about the company, or someone in it.
Unless you've heard mutterings through the grapevine supporting this vengeful outburst, it's probably fake and totally made up.
Most of us wouldn't resort to this type of activity. But there is the 1% who may...
What do you do?
- You could completely ignore the report and not follow through with any communication with the reporter. Tag it as 'closed' with 'no cause found', and that's it. You may feel that if you did follow up with the reporter, questioning them about their report, it may motivate them to engage in more ridiculousness, wasting everyone's time. Chances are they've accomplished what they set out to do - filing the ridiculous report - and you'll never see or hear from them again.
- You could also pull out the sympathy card and communicate with the reporter. Asking more questions about how they feel, why they made the report, what can you do to make them feel better... (are any of their crazy allegations true). But again, this may make them engage in more activity. You may not want to feed more fuel into this situation, no matter your best intentions.
Unless this person has left their contact information in the system along with their report, you've no way of knowing who they are.
You may be aware of a former employee who was recently let go and that situation was not really pleasant. This anonymous report could have come from them.
The urge to 'know' is in our DNA. We are a curious lot. But we recommend to let things go. Accept that this shocking report has come in, close it, shake it off as they say, and walk away.
Chances are, that's the end of it.
On the flip side, there's a multitude of reasons an employee may need to file a whistleblower report. Here's a few of them outlined in a free eBook.