Encouraging Internal Reporting: Lessons for Employers

The different emotions and experiences a whistleblower goes through are like a cross-country road trip- but in the right direction.

Posted by Joe Gerard in on November 12th, 2010

The different emotions and experiences a whistleblower goes through are like a cross-country road trip- but in the right direction. Unfortunately, it’s still a long battle to fight just to do the right thing. Lately we’ve been hearing a lot about the big paydays received by whistleblowers. With the whistleblower provisions under the Dodd-Frank Act and the media attention surrounding big-time corporate whistleblowers, there have been some misconceptions about the true impact of blowing the whistle- and it’s not pretty. The whistleblower provisions and monetary rewards have companies worried, as employees are likely to bypass internal reporting when they are aware of misconduct, taking their cases straight to an outside agency. I’ve included a list of ways companies can deal with this issue at the bottom of this post.

In It For the Money? Think Again

Those who are in it just for a big payday are in it for the wrong reasons. Chances of you receiving a big payout like Eckard’s- the GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) whistleblower who recently received a payout of $96 million; are probably on par with your chances of winning the lottery. Even though the protections for whistleblowers continue to increase, you’ll want to make sure your motives for blowing the whistle are appropriate. Your decision to blow the whistle should be based on the desire to do the right thing, such as protecting the public from unsafe products or calling out a company for corrupt practices.

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As for the Dodd-Frank Act whistleblower provisions, I think some people believe that if they are aware of misconduct in their workplace, all they have to do is report it to an outside agency and then they will receive financial benefits shortly after. There’s a lot they seem to forget about or are unaware of. Whistleblowers don’t have it easy. They face a lot of scrutiny, stress and many of them lose or quit their jobs because of the repercussions they faced as a result of blowing the whistle.

Lessons For Employers

Perhaps the largest concern surrounding the whistleblower provisions is that some employees might be enticed by the money, resulting in false or exaggerated claims of misconduct. As an employer, here are some ways to encourage internal reporting:

1. Respond to Allegations

In the case of the GSK whistleblower, she said she reported the issues internally but nothing was done about it. Don’t drive employees to report misconduct elsewhere. Every allegation deserves proper attention. Your company has invested in an ethics and compliance program for a reason, so act on incoming tips and allegations. Employees are likely to report issues internally when they see that management is taking them seriously and taking action to make changes in the workplace. Case management software makes it easier to stay on top of new cases, as the system sends out automatic alerts each time a new case is added. Using the excuse “I never received a complaint about that” isn’t going to cut it.

2. Policies

Make it part of your company’s internal policies that employees are obligated to report misconduct internally. Each year, have employees review and sign the policy, recognizing their responsibility to report internally first. Make sure the policy is balanced- in the policy, include a statement that management is obligated to look into each incoming allegation or complaint. This way, both groups are held responsible for making things work.

3. Communication and Visibility

Make yourself visible and talk about misconduct with employees in the workplace. Engaging in these conversations reduces tensions they might have about reporting an issue internally. It’s difficult to expect your employees to come to you if they have a problem when your door is always closed and they can’t put a face to your name. Reporting fraud, harassment or any other type of misconduct can be embarrassing and challenging for an employee to speak about. Let them know that you are fighting for them and want to create a work environment that is welcoming for everyone.

Joe Gerard
Joe Gerard

CEO, i-Sight

Spend my days showing off the i-Sight investigative case management software and finding ways to help clients improve their investigations. Usually working with corporate security, HR & employee relations, compliance and legal teams.

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