Whistleblowing is a serious concern for many businesses and finding a way to manage any occurrences can be difficult. According to Simply-Communicate, one of the best ways a business can protect itself from whistleblowers is by building the best company culture possible.
A report from the National Business Ethics (NBE) Survey, 45 percent of employees in 2011 admitted to viewing misconduct at work. From those who saw misconduct, 65 percent of respondents said they reported the bad behavior they witnessed. The report also found that 1 in 5 employees who reported misconduct felt they went through some form of retaliation.
With 42 percent of respondents saying their workplace environment has weak ethical culture, businesses have to find ways to improve corporate culture.
What exactly is a whistleblower?
Whistleblowers are oftentimes known as employees who complain about company misconduct for reasons connected to health or safety violations, shareholder fraud or financial mismanagement, legal site Nolo Press reported. Typically, employees who don't engage with the initial complaint are titled protected whistleblowers, which are protected by several state and federal laws.
Daniel Goleman, an author, psychologist and journalist, explained the most common reaction to whistleblowing is a worker getting dropped from the company through either transfers or being fired, Simply-Communicate reported. Goleman added that for government and private industry workers, 80 percent of whistleblowers "suffer immensely."
"The paradox of this is that the whistleblower is actually highly loyal to the organization," said Goleman, according to the source. "He/she is not blowing the whistle because they want to get someone, but because they feel the basic mission, the higher ideal is getting violated and they can't live with that. Their own ethics drive them to tell the truth. The organization, paradoxically feels betrayed, angry and retaliates."
How retaliating can harm business operations
When companies retaliate against whistleblowers, retention rates are severely damaged and top performers will realize how quickly businesses can turn their backs on workers, the source reported. The NBE survey also found that 7 out of 10 employees who suffered retaliation planned to quit their job within five years.
Businesses should always keep the anonymity of the whistleblower to avoid any sort of retaliation claim, the New Hampshire Business Review reported. When companies are oblivious to the whistleblower, the less likely any lawsuit can be instigated.
Instead, companies should keep open and clear communication between the worker and not push the idea too much to keep the report confidential. According to the source, businesses should let the employee know both parties remaining quiet about the situation will be best for everyone and that the complaint is being addressed.
Whistleblowers often notify the government because they believe their first report didn't receive enough attention and to protect themselves from any sort of retaliation. According to the source, businesses shouldn't keep employees from contacting the government when they are making a report as it could be reported in a claims case.
"All of these people feel they are loyal and that they are doing what they should be doing," said Jim Lukaszewski, a crisis communication consultant, according to Simply-Communicate. "They believe they are saving the company from further damage. However, from the standpoint of management, they are considered to be disgruntled employees."
Companies have a responsibility to avoid retaliation and to resolve the issues with the initial report.