Whistleblowers are becoming ever more common within businesses, both large and small. This may certainly be due to important cultural and generational shifts with regard to ethical business practices; but, legislation, such as Sarbanes-Oxley, has also ensured that whistleblowers are to remain anonymous within the areas of accounting or auditing practices.
Of course, this also means that your company needs to have a concrete set of procedures in place to manage ethics in the workplace. Being prepared is always excellent advice. So, here are 4 common sense ways to deal with whistleblowers within your company:
- Protect anonymity
It’s absolutely essential to protect the confidentiality and the anonymity of any whistleblower. One of the primary reasons given for an employee not coming forward with an ethical complaint is that they fear retaliation by other employees and the organization. In this context, protecting the anonymity of the whistleblower encourages a more ethical workplace environment.
From a business perspective, prioritizing the anonymity and confidentiality of the whistleblower also mitigates retaliation claims and other legal issues. This is where Sarbanes-Oxley is so effective at providing legal support for companies when it comes to issues of anonymous whistleblowing.
- Provide absolute support
Once the employee has made a report, they need to feel completely supported. Part of this is having a strong code of conduct in place. The way that the complaints are handled and the reaction of your business leaders is also crucial.
Bear in mind that some reports may actually lead to criminal or civil litigation. It’s essential that every single claim is treated with the utmost respect and seriousness. When employees feel supported at this level, it cascades throughout your organization, thus generating a more positive workplace culture for everyone.
- Keep detailed records
Given that some claims may lead to litigation, it’s important that the claim itself is recorded correctly and stored within a secure system. These records will be treated as evidence in cases of litigation and it’s critical that they are accurate and reflect the evidence given by the whistleblower.
This is also critical where investigations are conducted by external parties. You don’t want your organization to be liable in legal action against it because the records were inaccurate or because the records were corrupted due to data loss.
- Conduct a quick and transparent investigation
For both the sake of the employee who has made the report and the future of your organization, conducting a quick, thorough, open-minded, and transparent investigation is important. Not only does this signal to the whistleblower that they are taken seriously, but it also maximizes the chances of addressing unethical behavior quickly.
Creating a positive culture
In every organization there is the possibility that unethical behavior will derail the culture. The way that your company deals with complaints and whistleblowers is important to the creation of a positive working culture. By treating each complaint seriously and with respect, keeping detailed records, and conducting thorough investigations, you build a strong foundation of ethics for the benefit of everyone.