Speaking up often comes down to managing loyalty. And if loyalty was an animal it would be unpredictable at best. At once nimble and intuitive but under pressure transformed to snarl and spit.
That’s because at the heart of being a loyal employee is the sense of duty arising from protecting the hand that feeds.
Employees are well socialized, often before they even join a company, to believe in the brand and its leadership team. Speaking up often doesn’t align with this as individuals get called out and reputational damage is often the fallout – especially when the SFO along with the media get notified.
Further, some employers may well argue and believe that they have a right to expect silence from those they employ – an extension of what goes on at work stays at work. On this basis confidentiality clauses in employment contracts can take on special significance.
Judgement becomes clouded when strong and enduring relationship with colleagues and managers are threatened through witnessing or experiencing illegal or questionable actions. Such actions may well hold broader societal and financial implications – but only if exposed.
And so issues of identity – ‘who am I and what are my values?’ – become heightened. It is here that the sense of belonging – amplified by seeing oneself as an extension of a company brand – can exert unique pressure.
Some studies have shown a correlation between with holding speak up information and imminence of gaining a promotion or receiving a bonus. The same is true when length of tenure, a well established measure of loyalty, comes into force.
All factors, promotions, bonuses and longevity, ultimately reinforce the benefit of remaining loyal and not upsetting the apple cart.
Contrast this with the pull of demonstrating loyalty to society – that vague amorphous grouping layered by anonymity. The notion of the greater good and kaitiaki can be difficult to sustain if the speak up process appears as both complicated and tortuous.
Such insight is useful when weighing up the decision to develop an inhouse process for speaking up or to free up internal resource in favour of a neutral and beneficially anonymous external party.
Although it may appear heartless the reality is that it is easier to talk about someone behind their back rather than front up to their colleagues and either confirm suspicions or blow apart their trust and team.
Enter into the fray the importance of a competent CEO. Even external reporting relies on explicit and unambiguous messaging from the top about the importance of speaking up. This cannot be under-estimated. That messaging needs to also challenge the belief that speaking up is the action of the disloyal.
The step of calling or emailing an independent third party such as Report it Now, New Zealand’s independent and privately owned reporting business, prevents many conflicting loyalties from taking hold.
By removing the need to confront colleagues with scenarios that run counter to company culture and code, the actual business of detailing what was seen or heard becomes simplified.
Further, when using an external speak up line the risk of leaks becomes diluted. Internal processes rely on everyone being on the same page when it comes to speaking up. If this isn’t’ the case, if there is a weak link then there is every chance that the reporters credibility could well be undermined. Poisoning the messenger through leveling counter accusations prior to any investigation taking place are not uncommon.
As in all contracting relationships the value of the contract and performance criteria that ensures the service can be qualified and quantified removes all the subjectivity and interpersonal risk.
With procedures set firmly and formally in place the impact of human emotions from doubt to defensiveness and any pre-existing and disproportionate bias against the reporter is stymied.
An external company collecting data does so without any clouded judgement – its their role and one that they can be unequivocally proud of.
Loyalty is a tricky little beast.
Best then to keep it contained and docile.
Report it Now, a professional external reporting business works to preserve the relationships that count while curating the information that matters.
Perfect for dealing with tricky little beasts that turn.