Every office is a community, and every community needs rules. These rules are made in accordance with a concept called corporate ethics. Ethics is a broad term that can encompass many ideas, but here–we mean a code of conduct meant to govern the workplace.
Sometimes these ethics are imposed on an organization from the outside by groups like government regulators or national licensing organizations–and other times these rules are put into place by companies based on their own need and experience. In either case, the act of ensuring that these rules–these ethics–are followed is known as compliance.
Compliance is the more difficult discipline of the two. One need but look at how a successful company has drafted their rules to get a firm idea on how to tackle that part of the problem. Ensuring that those rules are followed, however, is the real challenge.
Industry analysts have found that those organizations with the highest ratings for ethical compliance earn this distinction, at least in part, by establishing and maintaining well publicized anonymous hotlines that their employees can use to affect compliance themselves by reporting the bad and abusive behavior they see around them.
By doing this, a company can essentially deputize their best employees into helping to create a safe, stable, and secure workplace. In other words, employees are safest when they can police themselves. This system is only effective, however, if employees feel certain that their complaints will be taken seriously and that their anonymity will be protected. To that end, there are two types of anonymous hotlines: internal and external. We’ll look at the pros and cons of each.
The Internal Whistleblower Hotline
An internal hotline is often operated out of an organization’s HR or Internal Audit department. Companies with large enough budgets might even consider building a dedicated hotline department. In some ways, an internal system may be a more affordable option for small businesses. The small company might even be able to get away with an anonymous answering machine, or other temporary solution–that being said, we recommend those organizations with the resources to develop more thorough systems should do so.
The External Whistleblower Hotline
An external hotline is developed, implemented, and operated by a third party provider. Unlike the internal system, the external hotline is designed entirely outside of your office ecosystem but can be tailored to the specific needs of your organization.
Third parties offer many advantages over internal hotlines at a cost that may be close to the cost of an internal solution. A third party will often offer 24/7 multilingual service, coupled with quick response times and the ability for the investigator to interact anonymously with the reporter. Furthermore, a third party can help your organization avoid accusations of impropriety or retaliation. Employees who feel like they’re being unfairly persecuted by their former employers might even attempt to bring a wrongful termination lawsuit–by having an independent, outside, contractor handle the complaint and investigation, the appearance of a conflict of interests is significantly lessened.
If you’re organization needs help finding its own corporate ethics, or if your company is struggling to turn a negative, hostile, or otherwise counterproductive office environment around, consider contacting the ethics and compliance experts at Ethical Advocate today!