Your company might have all the right tools, policies, and training to prevent ethics violations among the staff. But what about unruly customers? What happens when your field reps encounter unfavorable behavior from your clients?
Because clients generate revenue for your company, your teams might feel discouraged about coming forward with any reports of boundary-crossing. They might believe the company will always side with the money-making customer or be in fear of retaliation for reporting a loyal or sizable business client.
Ethics hotlines are great resources for instances like these. And there are additional policy steps you can take to ensure your reps know what to do should they encounter clients who cross the line. In the end, knowing which of your clients are misbehaving will allow you to address potential issues before they turn into much more costly and harmful situations.
Define Client Harassment & Ethics Violations to Your Teams
Teach your teams and field representatives to spot ethics violations first. Educate them, as you would regarding your internal ethics policy, about definitions of crossing the line. These might include gift-giving from clients, attempted social contact, rude comments, and sexual advances. Typically, violations can extend to physical, emotional, intellectual, and spiritual boundary-crossing. However, providing clear definitions for them will empower them to take action should they experience any impropriety in the field. And it sends a message to your teams that you intend to support and protect their interests as employees of your company, even if it’s a high-paying client who’s crossing the line.
Coach Employees About Their Resources
Part of your ethics policy involving client interactions can also provide the next steps for employees to take should they inadvertently find themselves in an unwanted situation with a client. Teach them about establishing boundaries with new client relationships and let them know it’s ok to stand their ground if they’re comfortable doing so. But also let them know they can also walk away if they feel uncomfortable.
Additionally, outline what steps your teams can take when they want to report an ethics violation from a client. These might include reporting to a department manager or Human Resources. It might also provide an option for the employee to no longer work with that client without losing any commissions or pay. Ultimately, your process should include an investigation of the incident and a re-evaluation of the client’s company relationship. If you have a predatory client, you may decide to halt all partnerships moving forward.
An Ethics Hotline Is a Great Resource
An ethics hotline is an ideal resource for your employees who routinely spend time in the field with clients. Because they can initiate a violation report without providing their name, they will likely feel more empowered to do so. And ethics hotlines can be available to others outside of your organization, too, meaning anyone can report a client overstepping the professional boundaries.
Make sure your field reps and client-facing staff have all the tools and resources they need to do their jobs well without contending with uncomfortable client engagements. Consider adding an ethics hotline to help. And Ethical Advocate can be your guide.