Whistleblowers actually have a lot of power. They just aren't aware of it.
In a recent survey by the Ethics & Compliance Initiative, nearly a third of participants who were surveyed, who did witness misconduct, chose not to report it.
The purpose of the survey, which collected data from 18,000 global employees, was to understand the state of ethics in the workplace from the perspective of employees.
The focus of the survey was on the following areas of misconduct:
Abusive behavior, conflicts of interest, corruption, discrimination, sexual harassment, violations of health and/or safety regulations.
What's interesting to note is that of those employees who did report the misconduct they saw, the majority reported directly to a supervisor or higher management, before sourcing out their company's whistleblower hotline.
Back to those who chose not to report misconduct - it's entirely possible that they did report the first, or even second time, but felt nothing was done about it, before they just gave up.
If the survey is suggesting that most employees are going to their direct supervisors first to report on misconduct, then it's imperative that supervisors and management are equipped to handle these types of reports - from an emotional, and tactical standpoint.
From an emotional point of view, the areas of misconduct the survey focused on are quite serious, and extremely life altering for an employee. If management isn't prepared to focus their full attention on the matter, it could have dire consequences for their employees. Supervisors should be trained in how to handle sensitive reports like these with empathy, understanding, and non-judgement, while being able to conduct a full investigation without letting personal perception get in the way.
From a tactical standpoint, when a manager does receive an employee's concern about a matter of sexual harassment, or discrimination, that supervisor better be sure they have the tools available to them to conduct a thorough investigation in a manner that ensures the employee's anonymity, if the employees so chooses, while at the same time being able to document all evidence to support the outcome of the case.
The ability to file an anonymous proxy report, on behalf of an employee who came directly to their supervisor, ensures all reports, regardless of how they’re received, are housed within a case management system - this ensures that no report goes undocumented.
The other benefit of managing reports of misconduct received through other channels is the net effect of having all reports in one single repository that will allow for better holistic reporting analytics and the ability to see trends and identify red flags more easily. This is definitely a win for any organization.
Reporting misconduct is critical because it allows organizations to react to incidents of misconduct that have occurred and to put measures in place to mitigate further wrongdoing.
You want employees to care about your business? Care about them first by letting them know they can freely report any wrongdoing without any retaliation!