Why Isn’t There More Trust in Whistleblower Hotlines?

Posted by Amanda Nieweler

on July 14, 2016

Why Isn’t There More Trust in Whistleblower Hotlines?A culture of ‘win no matter what’ breeds distrust among employees and a lack of faith in management…

Guest post by Emma Brown

Often times there is an inherent distrust of ethics hotlines in businesses for a myriad of reasons. Too many times workers have been subject to harassment, retaliation or even job termination after choosing to report an unethical or illegal action.

An article by Ryan C Hubbs for FRAUD Magazine outlines the 10 most obvious reasons employees distrust the hotline systems in their workplace. We chose a couple of what we believe are the more common and important reasons that need to be fixed to ensure a successful hotline and a happy employee culture.

1. Employees don’t understand the system…
Reporting systems come across as common sense – make an anonymous complaint and wait until action is taken – but often employees hold an inherent distrust for it unless they know how their report will be handled at each step of the process. Taking the time to ensure each employee knows the details of the process can be extremely beneficial in building trust. It also helps build trust in the actuality of anonymity as many employees feel that even if it says anonymous, it may not be.

2.Inadequate resources and poor design….
Proving a business is dedicated to creating a healthier environment includes spending a bit to ensure that their whistleblower hotline is well-designed and streamlined. This can take the form of creating an internal hotline or bringing in an external company to implement a hotline and teach the employees. When employees know that time, thought, and money has been put into building this system, it helps heighten the trust in the system and the trust in management.

3. Management involved in hotline…
This is one of the main concerns when dealing with internal hotlines. First because first-line management are rarely trained as investigators. Second, because it is a very real possibility for the report to be about management. And third, employees often consider there to be a higher chance of retaliation if their report goes straight to management.

Even designating a separate HR group to handle reports can be risky as employees tend to consider them closely aligned with management. This is where anonymous external hotlines prove to be most beneficial in creating trust.

4. Too many reporting mechanisms…
Having a single point of entry for all reports is key in having a successful hotline. Whistleblowing is already a stressful activity for the employee who may be nervous, scared, or a victim of the action.

Trying to research and find the best channel for their report can only add to these feelings which is why a single hotline is important. One system takes out some of the stress and help encourage the reporter to move forward. Multiple reporting mechanisms can dissuade a potential whistleblower from even trying.

5. Too much emphasis on ‘credible’ or ‘good faith’ complaints….
Sometimes complaints will be filed for an ulterior motive… Getting a disliked coworker into trouble, retaliation for a former action, etc. Many companies try to curb these types of malicious reports by emphasizing that all reports must be in good faith (without ulterior motives) and some even go as far as to say there will be consequences if it is found that a report was not made in good faith.

While this works to protect, it actually dissuades reporters because ‘credible’ and ‘good faith’ are too broad of terms. The report of a coworker’s actions could be seen as malicious if it turns out to only be an innocent misunderstanding.

The easiest way to avoid reports of this kind is to work from the ground up and create a happy employee environment. Happy employees are always more likely to take the ethical route.

Here’s how to communicate your successful whistleblower hotline.

Why Isn’t There More Trust in Whistleblower Hotlines?