The Importance of Properly Responding to Whistleblower Reports

The Importance of Properly Responding to Whistleblower Reports

Remember the tale of the boy who cried wolf?

How do you handle a situation where an employee keeps making the same whistleblower report over and over? Your investigation team does their due diligence with each report then closes each report with the conclusion that the reported concern is not substantiated, or there was no cause found.

Yet the same employee keeps making the same report over and over.

This could be a red flag that there is something going on that management isn't seeing. The employee is obviously not happy about something and keeps filing the same report.

In a recent webinar, Janelle Aaker, diversity, equity, and inclusion expert gave us the example of the boy who cried wolf.

"I think you need to treat every report like it’s a new report. Do you remember the tale of the boy who cried wolf?   Just because the first three yells for help weren’t real, it doesn’t mean the next one isn’t. Unfortunately, you cannot assume that a new report from the same person isn’t substantiated."

"If you find multiple reports that are not deemed serious, consider if you are missing something. Clearly there is a disconnect if the employee continues to feel that action is needed. Perhaps what is really needed is a good listening to what the employee is saying, and a good communication about what the investigation is revealing.  Where is the disconnect? Is it in employee expectations?  Is it in communication of investigation results?  Don't dismiss the series of complaints as 'nothing'". 

Your reporting employee has likely been sitting on their concern for a long time. They most likely have struggled with the decision to come forward. They have fear and trepidation about coming forward and they may be scared of the outcome, but they know that coming forward is the right thing to do.

Understand what your employees need. This involves asking them what they need and not making assumptions about what they need. Try to understand what your employees' experiences are at your organization.

Then you can be confident that you respond to whistleblower complaints in a mindful way.

What do whistleblower hotlines do?

  • Encourage a speak-up culture: If there is misconduct inside the organization, someone is going to know about it. Most employees prefer to report wrongdoing anonymously so giving them the tools to do so allows the company to understand about wrongdoing sooner.
  • Know about misconduct sooner: When you know about misconduct sooner leadership can  to put a stop to it earlier. The sooner you know about it, the less revenue loss and reputational damage.
  • Understand a deeper issue: A thorough investigation will allow you to get to the root of an issue. This is the chance to take what is learned and apply it to existing policies and procedures making them even stronger.
  • Communication with the anonymous reporter: An anonymous dialogue can be facilitated between the whistleblower and management and this can provide additional safety and security to enable your employee to open up further about their concern.
  • Avoid violations and legal battles: Organizations can face regulatory violations if there was no mechanism in place for employees to speak-up. Regulators have been known to lessen penalties, or drop them altogether if an organization has done its due diligence and taken appropriate steps to address and investigate issues.

Listen to a webinar recording that gives meaningful examples on what management can bring to the table to fully support employees who are brave enough to speak-up.

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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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