When companies are committed to maintaining a safe, ethical, and compliant workplace, they have to be able to rely on their employees to sound the alarm if something isn’t right. Issues like fraud, bribery, sexual harassment, discrimination, and other kinds of misconduct typically occur out of view of the managers or corporate executives in a position to correct the situation. Too often, though, even companies that have policies and procedures in place to encourage reporting are slow to discover incidents of unethical or even criminal behavior, because those who have witnessed or experienced misconduct are hesitant to speak up.
Federal law protects whistleblowers from retaliation for reporting workplace conditions they believe to be unsafe or illegal. However, there’s a wide gap between that baseline of protection and a safe workplace environment where employees feel empowered to report issues. Regardless of what the law says, those who’ve experienced harassment or have knowledge of wrongdoing are frequently hesitant to share what they know. Unfortunately, this allows problems—and their associated liability, expense, and negative impact on employee morale—to grow larger before they’re addressed.
Why Employees Don’t Report
Fear of retaliation is a significant reason employees can be afraid to report misconduct, but it isn’t the only one. Just as often, they don’t disclose what they’ve witnessed because they don’t feel like it will do any good. These perceptions can arise in part from how a company implements its policies on reporting harassment, safety violations, and/or illegal activity.
Procedures that look safe and easy to use from the point of view of the C-suite may not feel the same to lower-level employees, contractors, or temporary hires. For instance, if available reporting channels don’t give the option to file an anonymous report, employees may be slower to bring up issues. Similarly, if reporting requires employees to go through a rigid set of formal steps to voice a complaint, they may feel discouraged from bringing up issues they’re unsure about. Worse, they may even perceive the process as just being a way for the company to reduce the risk of a lawsuit instead of a sincere effort to improve workplace safety.
To create a proactive culture that facilitates reporting, companies need to set up reporting that is easy to access, is readily available to all employees, and preserves confidentiality.
Additional Considerations for U.S. Companies Expanding Abroad
While U.S. law may not fully mandate how internal misconduct reporting is handled in private companies, EU countries are increasingly setting up stringent requirements for reporting systems. Most recently, Germany published a draft bill of a Whistleblower Protection Act, which is expected to be enacted soon. It requires all companies with more than 49 employees to set up reporting systems and lays out core procedural aspects that must be met to stay in compliance. Companies found to be hindering reporting or retaliating against whistleblowers can be fined up to 1 million Euros. Other European countries have already passed similar laws, in accordance with the EU Whistleblower Directive.
Making the Workplace Safe
Reporting is the first, critical step for any organization to become aware of and mitigate potential misconduct problems. Making it as easy as possible for employees to report, and to feel secure doing so, can help protect against the financial and reputational damage that comes from harassment, fraud, or safety violations. #NotMe is a mobile, fully customizable platform that literally puts reporting at your employees’ fingertips to empower them to speak up on the spot, anonymously or not, whether they’re working on site or remotely. Information gathered is centralized and prioritized by an AI-powered dashboard so leadership can address problems before preventable harm is done.
[#NotMe] is easy to implement, requiring no IT resources to set up or run, and it's fully encrypted infrastructure protects user and organizational data. Our team can work with your business to tailor the app to the specific needs of your industry, policies, code of conduct, and culture. Available in multiple languages and GDPR compliant, #NotMe can help you establish compliance with whistleblower protection laws in overseas jurisdictions as well.
Transforming your workplace culture into one that demands accountability and promotes safety for all employees requires action. #NotMe gives your leadership the tools to listen, learn, and act effectively. To find out how #NotMe can work in your organization, contact us here to request a free demo.