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Reporting workplace misconduct: the value of independence

Independence matters when it comes to investigating misconduct claims in the workplace. Simon Rowse explains why

If an organisation is suffering from high employee attrition, high rates of sickness or absence, disengaged and poorly motivated employees or delivering poor financial results the cause may be hiding in plain sight. Your efforts to create a harmonious and highly performing team or business may be being thwarted from within by a rogue employee.

You may well think you have a positive culture - and make the most of this in your marketing - but there are many reasons why misconduct cases continue to make headlines. Often employees rationalise their behaviour. Things like inflating expenses claims or the use of ‘white lies’ to close a deal are seen as acceptable.

Even outwardly loyal, long serving or senior employees can behave in unacceptable ways. Not only do these types of behaviour become self-reinforcing, but they can only get worse as they lower the behavioural standards overall. In a self-fulfilling cycle they continue to spiral down, leading to greater and greater damage to the business itself as outlined above.

Unreported means unresolved

According to Gartner (2019), only four out of ten cases of workplace misconduct are reported. Reasons for this low rate include the fear of retaliation and the possibility of either being ostracised by colleagues or even facing the sack. Employees will also be reluctant to come forward if they have no confidence in the way issues will be remedied, or even if they’ll be taken seriously at all.

Finally, the process for raising issues itself maybe unclear. Just who in the organisation is responsible? Just whose role is it to raise the issue? It’s very easy in these cases to simply hope someone else will do it for you.

That is of course unlikely. The simple fact is that they won’t resolve themselves. That means they will fester and even potentially surface in damaging ways. Misconduct cases can lead to negative publicity, either in the press or online via social media. This further damages things like recruitment and sales. Who, after all, wants to work for or employ a company which doesn’t appear to take negative workplace behaviours seriously?

Add to this the fact that legislation is moving quickly towards setting new standards for the protection of confidential reporting. In 2019 the European Union adopted a set of principles to form a minimum standard across all European states.

All organisations employing over 50 people are obliged to establish confidential reporting channels, both telephone and digital. Further, ISO37002 Whistleblowing Management Standards are due to be published next year. Safecall has worked closely with ISO to establish this standard, which will bring best practice to the reporting and resolution of professional misconduct concerns.

So how do you root out bad behaviour?

Safecall’s own figures suggest that when independent monitoring is introduced reporting rates rise almost instantaneously by up to 100%.

By using a fully independent partner like Safecall you’re more likely to capture eight out of 10 cases occurring within your business. So what should HR be looking for when it comes to choosing an independent company to investigate misconduct claims? How do you find the best company for your business?

First, as stated, independence from the parent company matters hugely in giving employees the knowledge that their concerns will be treated in full confidence. It’s also vital that call handlers have the experience and knowledge to deal with every conceivable whistleblower issue.

Ask if the company outsources call handling to a third party. Does it have its own dedicated and experienced staff who are themselves expert interviewers, or are they more likely to be following a script or using standardised online forms.

Both online and phone channels should be available 24/7. Can they handle multiple languages, not least if you’re operating across different countries and cultures? Do they provide the back-up, training and support to ensure that employees know what to do if they witness inappropriate behaviour? Will they help all employees however innocuous the initial complaint might be? After all, what looks at first to be relatively harmless may warrant far more serious investigation.

Workplace misconduct cannot and should not be tolerated. The damage it does can run deep within an organisation if unchecked, and the very best check to ensure it doesn’t is to employ a robust, independent whistleblowing services provider, one who both you and your employees can trust, with an effective track record of demonstrable results. Only then can you, and your employees, have the confidence that you have taken all the necessary measures to investigate and resolve misconduct cases.

To find out how Safecall’s services can help your organisation, contact us now. As a special offer exclusive to HR readers, you can claim a discount on your first year’s fee if you use the code HRMAG200.

Simon Rowse is director at Safecall