New ethics statistics have been reported throughout the media in the last week based on the recently released 2011 National Business Ethics Survey (by the Ethics Resource Center). These statistics have been covered in the Huffington Post, The Wall Street Journal, The LA Times, and CNBC, among many others. In summary, nearly half of all employees witnessed a violation of the law or company ethics policy. While reporting of such violations increased, retaliation for such reporting has also increased to an all time high. More than a fifth of those who reported a violation experienced some sort of retaliation.
Companies committed to an ethical culture must take steps to ensure that those who report violations do not experience retaliation. The only way that employees will step up and take action in the future is when they see that those who completed reports in the past were not sidelined, terminated, ostracized, demonized, belittled…. Companies that have an anonymous hotline allowing employees to complete reports without divulging their identity are instrumental.
Studies show that individuals are far more likely to report a violation when they can do so anonymously. With the above statistics being released for 2011, the return on investment increases for those organizations using an externally provided anonymous hotline. Organizations that have internally provided hotlines, or those with no hotline at all, must make the decision to provide a way for employees to make a report without fear of retribution or retaliation or they will be more likely to go without receiving reports in the future.