Why don’t employees report workplace misconduct?

Even in the age of SpeakUp and #metoo, misconduct is still underreported…

According to research from Gartner, about 60% of all misconduct observed in the workplace is never reported.

When employees do report misconduct, almost 70 percent make their statement to their direct manager. Pity then, that only two-thirds of those managers are adequately prepared to handle a report of misconduct, regardless of the issue.

“Reporting misconduct is generally becoming more acceptable,” says Vidhya Balasubramanian, managing VP at Gartner’s legal and compliance research group, “however, the majority of people still don’t report the misconduct they witness, primarily because they fear retaliation.”

“There’s an information gap here,” she says, “especially when you consider that only 14 percent of the misconduct reports happen through official channels, such as the compliance team or HR.”

So why don’t employees report misconduct?

When it comes to reporting misconduct, power and position within that organisation count for a lot. Fear of reprisals, losing one’s job, or that job becoming intolerable, can be powerful dissuaders for employees, especially junior workers. 

Similarly, fear of being seen as ‘the office snitch’ or fear of future interactions with the subject of the complaint can prevent employees, even senior ones, from speaking up. 

Uncertainty around how much information they need to make a complaint, and uncertainty about what a supervisor’s reactions to the complaint might be can also prevent workers from reporting misconduct. 

This uncertainty is an organisational failing. Employees – even new ones – should understand the proper processes for reporting unethical behaviour. Independent, external whistleblower hotline software can help here, providing a secure, multi-channel platform for reporting and following up misconduct reports, as can training and support. 

External reporting platforms also provide complainants with a sense of transparency, with follow ups keeping them abreast of what’s being done about the complaint.  

“You don’t need to give them all the details,” says Balasubramanian. Instead, give them “regular touchpoints so they don’t feel their information got lost in a vacuum somewhere.”

Open, ethical workplaces start at the top. Senior and C-suite executives and boards are responsible for ‘setting the tone’ of an organisation. Setting up clear expectations around conduct and clear pathways for employees that need to report misconduct is crucial for a healthy organisation.   

“Early reporting of unacceptable or illegal behavior is best enabled by providing multiple channels for doing so,” says ethics expert Jane Arnott. “Providing a centralized speak up channel and providing guidance on how and when to use it is one thing that all too frequently falls by the wayside.”

There’s now a wealth of information that shows that being ethical pays and that third party whistleblower hotlines work, while creating better workplace experiences, reducing organisatinal risk and improving the bottom lines.  

Report It Now helps businesses prioritise conversations about speaking up, providing the tools, resources, and training required to operate an open, honest, and transparent business. 

To learn more about Report It Now and the customised service platform we can provide for your business, contact Report It Now for a free, confidential assessment. 

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