Many businesses and even employees believe ethics are clear, but what happens when an unethical situation arises? How does one go about handling it, especially if it deals with a superior.
Every business needs proper and transparent systems in place to define ethics and ensure issues are reported correctly. Otherwise, a bad situation can easily get worse over time.
1. No Whistleblower Protections
The biggest problem is whistleblowers are afraid to come forward. Without a transparent system in place, they’re not sure if they’ll be protected if they do speak up. Even though OSHA has a way to report certain ethical issues, whistleblowers still fear retaliation if it’s not clearly defined in business processes that they will be protected. Legally, they should be, but that’s not always the case.
In fact, some may just assume businesses don’t want anyone being a whistleblower. Since they can’t be assured of protection, it’s better to just put their heads down and deal or leave.
2. Ethics Issues Go Unchecked
Without a proper and transparent ethics system, ethics issues go unchecked. Without a clear way to report problems, issues can easily be swept under the rug. Perhaps an employee reports the issue to the wrong person. That person covers it up and finds a supposed legitimate way to fire the whistleblower. Others who see this happen decide not to get involved.
Ethics issues continue to worsen until the worst happens. This could involve major federal fines, massive lawsuits and even deaths. Having a system in place protects everyone, including the business. Eventually, poor ethics will come to light. Handling it internally correctly saves the business and its employees.
3. Businesses Lose Good Employees
Businesses are constantly trying to source the best talent. However, if you don’t have proper and transparent systems in place for ethics, the best employees may fear you have something to hide. They could very well choose to work for the competition instead.
For existing employees, they know they have valuable skill sets. They won’t continue to put up with ethics issues that could hurt their own reputations. Instead, they find a new job and quit. Having a high turnover rate sends a bad message to other employees and potential new hires. Attracting new employees is already hard enough. Overall, it hurts the business’s growth and reputation.
4. Victims Deal With Permanent Issues
Ethics issues can damage victims permanently. When it comes to safety violations, victims could be hurt permanently, such as issues with their back or even lost limbs. However, general workplace harassment is also an ethics violation. Without clear systems in place to prevent this, victims could have lasting mental and physical issues. Anxiety, headaches, depression, neck pain, cardiovascular issues and much more can all result from regular harassment in the workplace.
Of course, these issues hinder their ability to find new jobs. This isn’t fair to hard working employees who did nothing wrong. Having a whistleblower hotline in place and training on how to use it is a great first step to protecting employees and businesses.