In the survey, just 55 per cent of employees who said they’d been aware of misconduct actually reported anything – a shocking 61 per cent of those then said they’d been left dissatisfied with the way their company handled the issue.
“Weak speak up arrangements leave companies vulnerable," warns Philippa Foster Back, director of IBE. "If boards do not know what is going on, they cannot protect their businesses against crisis.”
Debby Carreau, CEO and founder of Inspired HR, agrees.
“In the world today, with everyone hyper-connected on social media, even small issues not addressed internally can hurt an organization through negative publicity if an employee chooses to go external instead of using in-house channels,” she told HRM.
“It is more important than ever to handle ethical and legal compliance internally,” she added.
“Take a look at the most recent example of the Volkswagen emissions scandal,” she continued. “A scandal like that not only destroys careers but can bring down a company.”
According to Carreau, misguided loyalty is often at the route of why employees won’t report unethical behaviour.
“In the work environment peer loyalty is a strong,” she said. “Team members are frequently loyal to their friends first and the organization second.
“Layer on the fear of being ostracized, or worse, facing retaliation by their peers or the organization, and the likelihood of an employee speaking out is very low,” she added.
So how can HR ensure their organization will handle ethical complaints effectively and prove it to employees?
“Often the best approach is multi-faceted,” says Carreau.
A recent study by the Institute of Business Ethics (IBE) has confirmed what many HR professionals already know – unethical behaviour often goes unreported because employees fear reprisal and rarely trust whistleblower arrangements.