4 Keys to Getting Employees to Use Your Whistleblower Program

Stamp out corruption with a speak-up culture backed by an anonymous reporting tool

Posted by Dawn Lomer in on February 11th, 2013

The news that FIFA has launched a website to encourage whistleblowers to report allegations of corruption and match-fixing in football should be great news for fans of the sport and for anyone who believes in clean competition. It comes on the heels of Lance Armstrong’s confession on the Oprah Winfrey Show that he has been lying about taking performance enhancing drugs for a good part of his career. Worse than the lies, in Armstrong’s case, is the fact that he involved all his peers and then threatened, bullied and effectively terrorized anyone who threatened to come clean.

Dangers of Retaliation

Retaliation against whistleblowers is at an all-time high, according to the Ethics Resource Centre. The ERC’s supplement to one of its recent National Business Ethics Surveys determined that more than one in five employees who reported misconduct feel they have been retaliated against for their actions. It also found that the rate of retaliation against employees increased by 46 per cent from 2009 to 2011 while the rate of reporting increased by only three per cent.

That’s why having an anonymous reporting system, like FIFA has just implemented, is so important. When companies invest in reporting channels and internal measures to prevent and detect misconduct, it sends a message to employees that the company is not only serious about detecting misconduct, but also about protecting those who report it.

Company Culture

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But beyond the basics of having anonymous reporting channels, companies also need to educate employees and managers about corruption and misconduct so they know when to report suspicious behavior, and why it is important to do so.  A code of conduct should make it clear what types of conduct are and are not tolerated by the organization.

So to ensure that employees can and do report wrongdoing, companies should keep the following four things in mind.

  1. Tone from the top: Employees will report misconduct only if they feel that management will be receptive to them and only if they feel that something will be done about it.
  2. Education: One reason why employees don’t report misconduct, is that they don’t know where to do it or how to file a report. Burying information about the company hotline in the employee handbook sends the message that it isn’t important.
  3. Reporting options: One of the best ways to encourage reporting of misconduct is to provide several methods of reporting, both anonymous and otherwise. Some people are more comfortable making an anonymous phone call, others would prefer to tell a manager or write a letter.
  4. Anti-retaliation policies: These should be included in every company’s code of conduct and communicated consistently to all employees.

Encouraging employees to report wrongdoing works hand-in-hand with creating a culture of integrity in an organization. Employees are empowered to speak up if they feel the company is committed to protecting them and doing the right thing.

Dawn Lomer
Dawn Lomer

Managing Editor

Dawn Lomer is the managing editor at i-Sight Software and a Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE). She writes about topics related to workplace investigations, ethics and compliance, data security and e-discovery, and hosts i-Sight webinars.