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Whistleblower Confidentiality: Why Ethics Reporting Needs To Be Protected

How often have you heard about whistleblowers who have faced backlash because they decided to report unethical behaviour within a company? The answer is probably too often. A study from the Bradley University Centre of Cybersecurity showed that nearly two-thirds of those who spoke up confronted retaliation.

Whistleblowers play an essential role in our workplaces and in society as a whole. They are individuals from all walks of life who come forward with information that they believe is important to share with the public. They expose corruption, fraud, and/or other wrongdoing within a company. The information a whistleblower shares should represent an opportunity for businesses to evaluate their operations, grow in accountability, increase transparency, and help prevent future scandals.

However, this is not always the case. Whistleblowers are often viewed as heroes because they expose wrongdoing, but they can also be seen as people who act out of anger. They can be labelled as a person driven by profit, not someone acting out of duty to bring change. For this reason, people who report unethical behaviour may not do so if they feel there is no protection for whistleblowers. They may think twice about speaking up because they fear retaliation.

Though some governments have provided a framework for whistleblowing, organizations must also understand the importance of creating an environment of protection around those who speak out. In this piece, we will discuss the importance of creating protections to ensure ethical reporting within corporations.

What is Whistleblower Confidentiality?

Individuals that decide to come forward with information regarding wrongdoing can choose to report it confidentially. This helps to protect them from the backlash they may otherwise encounter. When a whistleblower decides to select this method of reporting, they must provide their identity. The identity will not be disclosed until their consent has been given. Furthermore, the statement they have issued will remain secure in the system.

However, confidential reporting is not to be confused with anonymous reporting, which keeps the whistleblower’s identity unknown to the parties involved. Though there is a greater incentive when picking to inform anonymously, this route is discouraged as it may lead to more obstacles during the actual investigation.

Employee Trust

When establishing an ethics reporting system, organizations must consider fostering an environment that encourages employees to speak out about potential wrongdoing. Creating the right atmosphere by designing and maintaining policies is crucial. Such policies may detail how whistleblowers can report information, for instance, or who they report it to, both of which can help companies build employee trust.

Employees need to feel confident that any information shared within the company will be kept secure, especially when reporting issues they believe are problematic. Additionally, the workers should be assured that the integrity of the information shared will remain protected. A business that creates a hotline for those who choose to report anonymously can facilitate trust among employees. Staff members should be made aware that their identities will not be revealed during the reporting process.

A whistleblower could be any employee who feels that something is wrong within an organization. If they feel comfortable speaking up, they can become an ambassador for the system in place. Your goal is to create a culture where employees feel safe in speaking up. To ensure the success of such reporting methods, businesses must design a system capable of assuring staff that their concerns will be investigated and addressed promptly. An effective system will also assure all involved parties that the information provided will be treated confidentially.

When evaluating statements, a process needs to be instilled that removes personal biases. Those in leadership must also be mindful that retaliation against whistleblowers isn’t limited to the individual making the complaint. Other groups involved in investigating the claim could face repercussions, and safety protocols may need to be placed. Lastly, the whistleblower should stay informed of the process and understand what actions will be taken after the fact.

Company Integrity

Companies need to take responsibility for creating a climate that will encourage whistleblowers to come forward. Developing guidelines is essential; however, implementing and building awareness is another critical piece. A survey conducted in 2017 showed that only 21% of workers knew about an internal whistleblowing hotline within their organization. To create a culture of openness and transparency, companies must implement and build awareness programs. This can be achieved through regular training and informational sessions to allow employees to learn their rights and feel comfortable reporting on issues that stand out to them. Once team members are familiarized with the system, companies should keep them updated by holding educational seminars. These can be used to inform staff of any changes made to policies and procedures.

Those on the leadership team should integrate the whistleblower policy into the company’s values in the long term. It is vital for employees to see that there is a well-developed culture of integrity, accountability, and commitment. An organization can have the best compliance policy in the world, but this can be invalidated if an optimal culture is not there. Workers noticing that regulations are not only followed but also enforced will feel safer, more confident in their roles, and more comfortable.

An organization that adopts a speak-up culture is the best possible solution, as it means that when someone sees something wrong, they feel comfortable coming forward and sharing their findings. If there’s a problem, it will eventually get addressed because leaders won’t tolerate bad behaviour. With this type of environment, those in leadership can become more open to listening to input and feedback from all members of their organization. Speak-up cultures can help leadership identify and address misconduct before it becomes widespread.

Though there is a stigma, whistleblowers can be an invaluable asset to a business. Organizations that learn to integrate values that protect ethics reporting can create employee trust. When workers believe their leaders won’t turn a blind eye to wrongdoing, security and confidence amongst staff is formed. The right environment, such as speak-up culture, can improve a company’s prospects and equality through its team members, processes, and management standards. Administration can use concerns raised by their employees as a way to assess policies and organizational values. Regular training, education, and regulation updates lead to transparency and awareness, further increasing confidence in leadership.

Over time, the guidelines that have been put in place to protect ethics can help retain and attract new talent. Current employees can become advocates for the business, and companies can leverage a culture that protects ethics to become potential leaders in the social industry.

About WhistleBlower Security

WhistleBlower Security Inc. is a global provider of ethics reporting services, including a 24/7/365 Global Ethics Hotline and Case Management platform (IntegrityCounts), to provide organizations with an efficient and trustworthy ethics reporting process. Its product and service offerings help employees, customers, and suppliers feel safe and secure when reporting ethics and compliance-related issues. Based in Vancouver, Canada, WhistleBlower Security offers organizations worldwide with a secure and stable platform to protect their most confidential information. WhistleBlower Security is also a Woman Business Enterprise (WBE Canada certification) and is committed to a diverse workforce. Visit www.whistleblowersecurity.com for more information.

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