Whistleblowers may have a reputation among certain segments as traitors to a company. It is likely because news of illegal or unethical behavior reflects poorly on the organization or its decision-makers. However, employers, executives and managers can create an environment where individuals feel safe to report illegal or unethical actions by fellow employees.
More than instituting systems for compliance, the environment needs to be open and straightforward. Rather than investigating the whistleblower’s motive and attack their credibility, they need to address the issue highlighted in the complaint. This proactive approach will also play better with outside business partners, the public and the employees, thus helping build a better reputation.
Changing the culture
Companies and organizations can create a new, more open culture for recognizing wrongdoing. They can do this by:
- Making the company or organization’s code of conduct a priority
- Including the protocols in the employee handbook
- Regularly check in with employees to make sure they understand the reporting process
- Emphasizing corporate character during interviews, onboarding and meetings
Reducing risk and expense
Companies or organizations with active internal whistleblower programs for early detection often find that they pay smaller fines and are involved in fewer legal settlements. According to one study on the issue, the increased use of internal reporting protocols led to nearly 7% fewer lawsuits and over 20% less in the legal fees and fines levied against the organization.
Follow up with employees
Many internal investigations involve delicate information, so it can be hard to discuss the matter in detail with employees. However, leadership should reaffirm that they are taking the concerns seriously and take the necessary actions. If this does not happen, the employee may feel the need to leave the company or organization or report it to a federal agency. Both options should be considered undesirable.