The recent workplace scandals seem to have jumped onto the front pages with a great deal of fanfare. Many long held secrets are secrets no longer. After the requisite heads roll and people are fired or suspended and an investigation has been conducted and reported on, the damage done will still reverberate. There are a lot of executives who think that something ‘like this’ would never happen in their organization – until it does.
If your workplace encourages employees to be accountable and report what they reasonably believe to be illegal or unethical behavior, you may work in an ethical culture. You know that you don’t work in a culture of misconduct when every employee feels accountable to take responsibility to prevent or report misconduct and to protect the workforce, customers and the public from improper actions done by or on behalf of the company. If you want to create and sustain that kind of workplace culture, you need to create a “culture of accountability.”
Not only should there be training for all managers to permit and encourage open dialogue and a review of the reporting process of any apparent misconduct – the performance review and HR disciplinary practices should assure that all employees are protected from any form of retaliation.
While federal and state laws make it illegal to retaliate against an employee who reports misconduct, it can happen anyway and often does. Some employees who report misconduct or what they think might be misconduct can receive hostile reactions from co-workers even though that behavior isn’t approved of by the employer. Revealing misconduct on the part of someone who is liked or talented and opening the organization up for unflattering press is rarely greeted with applause.
If you see that an employee who reported alleged misconduct is being:
- Verbally abused by someone at work
- Intimidated physically at work
- Given the cold-shoulder by co-workers
- Left out of decisions and work assignments by managers
- Threatened with possible job loss, demotion, denial of promotion or raise
- Relocated or reassigned without warning or reason
- Had their pay or number of work hours cut
- Assigned undesirable work consistently
it may be a sign that your culture actually fosters misconduct.
Companies who are eager to crush that kind of culture work hard to encourage reporting, and protect the reporter.