Misconduct in the workplace is a hot topic in the news these days, and it has everybody reeling. Whether the misconduct is sexual harassment, financial fraud, or discrimination it is wrong, and there are more and more people every day who are fighting to take a stand against these wrongdoings. However, bringing up these issues in the workplace and to superiors still poses quite a problem in the professional world. Employees and executives alike worry about whether bringing up accusations will cost them their livelihood, or worse, lead a miserable life in order to maintain that livelihood.
As a response to employees fear and the recent culture of intolerance toward, well, intolerable behavior, organizations are starting a new trend of anonymous employee hotlines. Along with these hotlines, employers are setting a new expectation of employees to report any type of misconduct they witness. These types of policies and the implementation of these hotlines bring hope to the corporate world that it might finally be time for a change.
In December 2017 Harvard Business Review published an article regarding workplace misconduct that stated: “The board should ensure that the company has a well-publicized reporting system, so employees can report (anonymously or confidentially if they choose) ethical and compliance concerns.” Anonymous employee hotlines meet all these, offering anonymity which makes employees more likely to use them.
How do these anonymous hotlines work?
Anonymous employee hotlines are being implemented across the country and are working rather well thanks to their thoughtful design. One of the biggest factors in these hotlines’ success is the fact that they are staffed and managed by third-party companies instead of the corporation itself. This design helps to make anonymity more possible than if they were staffed in-house. Furthermore, because they are staffed by third-party companies they are able to be open 24/7 giving employees access to them from safe spaces, such as their homes.
When an employee calls into an anonymous hotline, their concerns are documented by a phone agent and then sent to an investigation team at the company or an investigation team that the company has hired. Once they receive the message, these teams follow strict and confidential processes to vet out the concern while maintaining an attitude of “innocent unless proven otherwise.” This approach helps to retain employee trust in the reporting system.
Have anonymous hotlines shown any results?
As recently as February 2018 an anonymous employee hotline has helped to bring a corporate case of misconduct to light and for justice to be served. On February 22, Ford Motor Co. executive Raj Nair was ousted from Ford due to misconduct allegations that were received over an anonymous hotline. According to the president of the company they made the decision to let him go after “a thorough review and careful consideration.” By these actions, Ford Motor Company has shown the public and their employees that they do not take these accusations lightly and that as a company they stand by the principles of integrity and good business.
Implementing Employee Hotlines
The Association for Fraud Examiners recently introduced four objectives that companies should aim for regarding implementing a healthy work environment and ethical culture for their employees. These four objectives are: Adopt a code of ethics, conduct thorough background investigations, implement a fraud hotline, and communicate anti-fraud policies. In reality, these four objectives are rather simple, do not take a big budget to implement, and provide a firm foundation for businesses to build upon. No matter the type of business, these objectives can apply. Furthermore, because they are simple objectives that can be easily implemented, both large corporations and small organizations should be able to take note.
In any sense, misconduct in the workplace is unacceptable and, although an employee hotline should not be necessary it unfortunately is. Concerning the future, these hotlines provide promise to the corporate world as their presence and abilities are becoming more known, more impactful, and more respected. It is the hope and the prediction that as these hotlines become more prevalent, we will see a decline in workplace misconduct because there will be known and serious consequences for proven accusations.