Why Employees Won’t Report Unethical Managers

One of the worst situations employees find themselves in is dealing with unethical managers. It’s a delicate situation that often leads to employees staying silent, even when they don’t want to.

Even with an ethics hotline place, it’s not uncommon for managers to get away with a variety of ethics violations. Sadly, it’s mainly because no one reports them.

Employees Are Framed

Unethical managers often threaten any employee who notices unethical behavior by placing the blame on them. For instance, if an employee notices embezzlement, their manager might change records to make it appear like the employee did it. Some managers even plan in advance by doing things in the employee’s name, such as requesting sensitive information and leaking it.

All a manager has to do is show this to their employees to prevent anyone from using the ethics hotline. It’s a tricky scenario to bypass unless employees feel as if they’ll be backed up by their co-workers. This is why creating an ethical culture is critical to stopping this.

Managers Go Unpunished

It doesn’t take long before employees notice a pattern of favoritism. For example, if a regular employee is reported for stealing and gets fired, that sets a precedent that if you steal, you get fired. But, if a manager is reported and no action is ever taken, employees see that managers are above reproach. Instead of reporting unethical managers, they simply ignore the behavior because nothing will happen.

Taking unbiased action is the best way to ensure employees report their managers when something does go wrong.

Fear Of Losing Their Job

For many employees, it’s the fear of losing their job that keeps them from reporting unethical managers. In one study, 38% of employees remain silent because the offender is their manager or boss. Another 26% fear losing their job. Combine the two and it’s clear that when a manager is involved, employees are more likely to stay silent to avoid putting their job at risk.

Since employees aren’t sure if any action will be taken, they’re afraid the manager will find out who reported them and either fire them or harass them until they quit. With families and financial obligations, losing a job, even if it’s just a few weeks, can spell disaster.

Managers Retaliate

While anyone could retaliate after an employee comes forward, managers may be the most likely to retaliate. Since they have more power, it’s easier for them to make an employee’s life difficult at work. This could include changing hours, increasing their workload, demoting them and more.

Now that the employee sees that no action was taken against the manager, they won’t report the retaliation for fear of making it worse. This leaves them either having to deal with it or quit. Other employees see what happens and they keep quiet to avoid the same thing from happening to them.

Businesses must treat every ethics hotline report equally and work to keep reports anonymous. It’s also vital to train everyone on how to use the hotline, investigative processes and what happens after an investigation. Whether it’s a manager or employee, equal action must be taken to ensure employees aren’t afraid to report management.