Manager training must attempt to put managers in the employees’ mindset, and prepare them to interact with an employee who has filed a report, and will likely be on the lookout for signs of retaliation. Any actions the manager takes will be read through that lens – and good training will talk about the things “around the edges” that employees will read as inappropriate. The best training I’ve seen actually pulls out employee examples so that managers can get a real understanding of the range.
Managers must be trained to document their actions carefully in these circumstances, and to look for help. Training might also include ways to confirm their judgment or bring others into decision-making, to ensure managers aren’t making biased decisions and also to increase the appearance of fairness.
Although manager training doesn’t always specifically address ethics and culture issues—the importance of a “speak-up” environment, creating a sense of fairness among reports—training managers to think about such problems in advance greatly increases the chance they will behave appropriately after a report is filed.
Our data shows that for employees who indicated they would not be willing to report, fear of retaliation and a lack of faith that corrective action would be taken are first and second in the list of reasons why—they are practically tied. This is one of the areas where demographic analysis is most interesting. For most organizations, there are pockets within the company where those fears tend to be stronger. This is not surprising, considering that only 81 percent of our Culture Quotient respondents agreed that their organization has a policy that prohibits retaliation against someone who makes a report. Likewise, just 77 percent agree disciplinary actions are taken when individuals engage in unethical behavior or misconduct at their company.
Also noteworthy is the fact that Culture Quotient respondents are more likely to strongly agree or agree that their manager supports the organization’s non-retaliation policy than that the organization itself supports the policy (86 percent vs 80 percent, respectively).Collectively, the data suggests that organizations have an opportunity to enhance the level of transparency around reporting, the investigation process, and disciplinary actions.
Companies would do well to include questions about retaliation in their regular ethical culture surveys. Such surveys, which also cover employee perceptions on topics such as leadership ethics and organizational justice, are a key tool to help functions such as human resources or ethics and compliance “take the temperature” of the organization.
What gets measured gets done. Data provides organizations the ability to dig into their employee population and discover where their culture is thriving and where stronger leadership is needed to ensure a more open, cooperative, ethical and productive culture.
About the Author:
Erica Salmon Byrne is the Executive Vice President for Ethisphere, where she has responsibility for the organization’s data and services business and works with Ethisphere’s community of clients to assess ethics and compliance programs and promote best practices across industries. Ms. Salmon Byrne also serves as the Chair of the Business Ethics Leadership Alliance; she works with the BELA community to advance the dialogue around ethics and governance, and deliver practical guidance to ethics and compliance practitioners around the globe.