Amanda Nieweler

by Amanda Nieweler

Take Care of Your Whistleblowers

Blog_Protect.pngWhistleblowing helps discourage wrongdoing!

One of the best ways to minimize internal risk is to create an environment where employees feel like they are able to come forward and report wrongdoing, without being punished.

Employees who report internally are truly doing their companies a favour because when ethical violations are brought forward, the company has a chance to do something about it and fix a potential issue before it becomes a late-night comedy skit.

But if you want to encourage employees to report, they need to know they are safe when they do so.

Non-retaliation increases reporting because employees feel it is safe to report what they see. Also, if employees feel safe to report misconduct without fear of retaliation, then that alone can reduce future misconduct and organizational risk.

So, companies need to make employees feel safe. Having multiple access points for employees to use to make their report is important in the fight to create a speak-up culture. Having a reporting hotline is important, but may not be enough.

Multiple avenues to report gives employees a choice in how (and if) they report.

A National Business Ethics Survey found that 87% of employees report wrongdoing if their company has an effective compliance and ethics program.

Stronger ethical culture, and the effectiveness of a company's ethics and compliance program are closely tied to workplace behaviour. A strong ethical culture will enable more reporting of violations that are observed, and will also decrease the pressure to weaken ethical standards.

Retaliation also decreases dramatically for those reporting employees working in organizations with effective ethics and compliance programs.

Also, an organization’s leadership is so very important. The significance of compliance and how important it is must be relayed company-wide as a message directly from the top if it’s to be effective and believed.

Another way to keep your whistleblowers feeling a little bit safer is by partnering with a third-party provider. Compared with a reporting program operated by the employer, employees may feel a third-party program offers a little more trust.

The plus side to a third-party provider is that they have more experience managing whistleblower calls, which can be highly emotional and stressful. Also, your third-party provider can supply a partnering company with a large amount of insightful hotline data, reports and analyses.

An interesting field experiment by the Santa Clara University showed that employees blow the whistle externally when they believe the company won't listen to them and they believe outsiders will fix the problem.

However, employees will blow the whistle internally when they hope the company will fix the problem when managers won't listen.

Ultimately, no matter what, companies need to let employees know ethics and compliance starts at the top, and whistleblowers won't face retaliation.

No matter what system it uses, an employer must let employees know that ethical culture begins at the top of the organization and that whistleblowers won’t face retaliation if they come forward.

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