An ethics hotline helps hold businesses more accountable. However, upper management may resist an ethics hotline. While some of the resistance comes from valid concerns, a properly implemented and managed hotline always does far more good than anything else.
Once upper management gets on board with an ethics hotline, employees trust it more. This means they’ll use it more appropriately and help create a more ethical business.
1. Unethical Behavior
Sadly, a common reason upper management resists ethics hotlines is because they’re afraid of getting caught. They may engage in fraud, harassment, bribery and other unethical behaviors. If a hotline is in place, they fear what might happen. Employees would then have an easy way to report the issues and be protected at the same time. Sometimes, employees are afraid to report anything for fear of losing their job, but with an ethics hotline and protections in place, they’re braver and may report upper management.
2. Fear Of False Accusations
False accusations is a legitimate concern for upper management. However, an ethics policy should have a section that explains the repercussions for harmful false accusations. For instance, if an employee simply doesn’t like their manager and accuses them of sexual harassment when nothing ever occurred, the employee could then be investigated for being unethical too.
Managers have to feel that they have protection too. Explain how everyone is protected, including from false accusations.
3. Causes Distrust
Some upper management say an ethics hotline goes against their business culture. Instead of creating a team or family-style work culture, a hotline causes distrust among employees. Instead of working together, they spend their time constantly avoiding each other. Management claims this hurts productivity and the business. However, this is very rarely the case. In fact, employees tend to get along better when they know they have a safe way to report unethical behavior to create a better overall work culture.
4. Using It Inappropriately
Much like false accusations, upper management is afraid the ethics hotline would be used inappropriately. For example, an employee who actually deserves to be fired may file a random complaint through the hotline. Management is afraid the employee would then claim retaliation if they’re fired. This could result in lawsuits.
Once again, this rarely happens. As long as upper management keeps clear records of why an employee is being fired, a false hotline report won’t come back to hurt the business. In fact, this will simply show a pattern of bad behavior.
5. Creates Fear Among Employees
In addition to distrust, upper management may resist an ethics hotline because they think employees will fear it. While this is true to an extent, most employees will either love the idea of a hotline or be indifferent. Usually, the only employees who truly fear it are those who have a real reason, such as fraud or other ethical issues. Of course, some employees may genuinely fear they’ll be targeted unfairly, but this is why businesses must have an unbiased investigative team to check out any reports. With a clear process in place, employees won’t be fearful and neither should upper management.