Let's normalise whistleblowing

Whistleblowing will ensure a better working culture and increase positive attitudes on work. But the phenomenon needs to be normalised before it happens.

13-03-2023 - 6 minute read. Posted in: whistleblowing.

Let's normalise whistleblowing

Many people might think that whistleblowing is something you only do in large companies - and that you are seen as a bad guy if you report a violation. This stigma needs to be shifted so that all employees can feel safe about reporting whistleblowing.

It takes courage

Whistleblowing takes courage. You report your workplace or colleague because you believe they are committing illegal acts or not acting ethically and morally.

It may also be that your workplace does not have an advanced whistleblower scheme, which means that in principle you have to break the pattern and actually report an incident. This can cross many people's boundaries and be frightening.

That's why we believe that reporting a whistleblower incident should be normalised, so that violations of laws and policies in workplaces can be addressed. Many employees are afraid to report problems and incidents for fear of how the parties involved will react. If your workplace has a whistleblower scheme, you are protected as an employee - both from retaliation, but also possible anonymity if you want that in relation to a case.

We know that it is difficult to change the working environment and culture overnight. That's why we highlight strategies your workplace can implement to create a good whistleblowing culture.

Whistleblower scheme to ensure employees

The first thing to ensure as a workplace is to have a whistleblower scheme, as well as a whistleblower function. Having a whistleblower scheme also encourages employees to report problems and incidents.

This creates an open working environment, which often has a positive impact on employees. It also sends a signal that there is transparent communication between all employees - and that it is between all positions in the company.

The benefit of the scheme is that it can encourage employees to report problems if they see a violation they think should be reported. Having a whistleblower scheme is a vote of confidence by management and it gives employees a guarantee when they report something.

A whistleblower scheme helps to inform employees of the full procedure behind a report, as well as giving them anonymity if they wish to do so when making a report.

In addition, it signals that management supports employees and is ready to listen to them should they report an incident or an employee. Communication is the key to a good whistleblower scheme, but more importantly, a good working environment. Setting the framework for the whistleblower scheme, and being positive about it, makes it easier for employees to blow the whistle.

Raise awareness about whistleblowing

The next step in raising awareness of whistleblowing is to train employees on the scheme and the principles behind it - this applies to all positions in your company. When all employees know about the scheme, it will also not seem strange to report an incident.

Below are some of the points that are good to highlight and clarify to employees:

  • An overview of company policies and ethical standards.
  • How and why to report violations of the policies and norms.
  • How reports will be handled.
  • How you will be protected if you whistleblow.

In fact, it will be a requirement for companies established in EU member states to have a whistleblower scheme that protects employees from retaliation and ensures anonymity.

This also means that it is a good idea to train the staff who will be sitting and dealing with cases properly, unless your company gets third parties to deal with them.

Having to report a case can be quite intimidating, which is one of the main reasons why transparency in the workplace is essential - this is also about good communication between employees.

But this is also why it is important to educate employees about the safety of a whistleblower scheme. Employees will be backed up by the scheme, which will hopefully make it safer to report a problem.

Having more whistleblowing reports strengthens the company and its employees. But awareness is essential - you can make whistleblowing less alien to employees by going through different cases demonstrating what happens when a report is made, how it is dealt with and how employeesare protected by the scheme.

Clear shield against revenge actions

It is important for employees to be safe when reporting a breach. Many may fear that the parties involved will become angry and retaliate against them if they find out who reported the problem. Often people want to remain anonymous, but sometimes others can figure out who might have witnessed the offense.

Having a clear shield to protect against retaliation will also encourage employees to report violations more often. In contrast, if there is no shield, employees are likely to avoid reporting violations for fear of reprisals.

Fortunately, retaliation against whistleblowers is banned in many countries and will be protected by the new Whistleblower Directive, which makes retaliation illegal in the EU. The directive will also protect those who may support the whistleblower - this means they cannot be demoted, suspended or become the victim of other revenge actions without it being a criminal offence.

Disseminate information about whistleblowing

It is always a good idea to disseminate information and materials about whistleblowing to employees. As mentioned, whistleblowing awareness only does good in your workplace - whistleblowing needs to be normalised so that more people dare to report wrongdoings.

You could also give employees a short version of your whistleblowing policy so that everyone is aware of the basic rules and procedures for reporting a violation.

Something else you can do in the workplace is to have small signs and posters about whistleblowing hanging, to have a constant reminder that everyone should be able to report it. This is, of course, without fear of losing your job.

This helps to normalise whistleblowing and not make it as frightening as some may feel it is. In addition, it is also a good idea to have different ways in which employees can report a breach - this could be by email, by text message or in a post box left at work.

Employees need to feel heard, and furthermore feel that they have the support of the workplace, so more employees will report violations. This improves the working environment, as well as the open working culture.

Author Caroline Preisler

Caroline Preisler

Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.

View all posts by Caroline Preisler

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