Terry Corbell, The Biz Coach
By Terry Corbell
Business Consultant

Co-workers Play Negative Roles in Whistleblower Retaliations



No one likes a snitch. But there is a need for protection of conscientious employees when they blow the whistle on discrimination, sexual harassment, mishandling of hazardous waste or disloyal employees who cook the books.

A study by the Ethics Resource Center found whistleblower retaliation increased 83 percent from 2007 to 2012. Almost 33 percent of whistleblowers were victims of retaliation. After blowing the whistle on wrongful acts in 2011, they were attacked physically or suffered damage to their homes or cars.  

Retaliation is one of the six reasons why companies fall into the costly management lawsuit trap.

Whistleblower retaliation issues are prevalent – not only because of management but the behavior of co-workers, too.

That’s according to another 2012 study by the global ethics and consulting firm, NAVEX Global. The survey included Fortune 500 companies and multinational firms.

The goal was to develop information to “cultivate trust and engagement between workers and management.” But only 15 percent of respondents said their companies had transparency in whistleblower retaliation.

“Providing a hotline number for raising concerns is not enough,” said Shanti Atkins, president and chief strategy officer of NAVEX Global. “To maintain a positive corporate culture that is rooted in trust, organizations need to share sanitized information on how management actually handles claims.”

“It is time to take away the mystery of what happens after an employee reports an issue,” he added.

The study’s results:

1. Employees increasingly view retaliation as coming from peers and not just management. When asked how front line employees define retaliation, the definition typically included negative comments from their peers.

Being “socially shut out by co-workers and managers” was also cited.

2. Seventy-four percent of respondents view training and awareness programs as most effective in minimizing retaliation claims.

The next two most effective methods identified were more open communications between management and line workers (45 percent), and an enhanced corporate culture (41 percent). Stronger disciplinary measures ranked as among the least effective methods.

3. A “significant” number of respondents (35 percent) said executives or high performers are merely “coached” after they engage in retaliation, as opposed to “fired,” “penalized” or subjected to other disciplinary action.

4. Thirty-nine percent of respondents said their organization uses whistleblower reporting data to inform reports to the Board of Directors.

Obviously, stronger ethics are needed to put a halt to this epidemic. Productive footwork is needed by management and human resources professionals.

From the Coach’s Corner, recommended reading:

Workplace Bullies May Hurt Retention of All Employees, Not Just Victims — Victims of workplace bullies are less likely to quit than employees who observe the abuse, according to a study by a Canadian university. The 2012 research implies a costly threat to an organization’s teamwork and productivity.

How You Can Eliminate Destructive Conflict for Better Teamwork — There are two types of conflict. For better teamwork and higher performance, it’s true that constructive conflict works. Usually, the best ideas evolve when ideas are discussed and debated. But when employees fail to exercise self control and their egos get in the way, emotions flare and cliques are formed in the workplace. That’s destructive conflict.

First Step in Fighting Lawsuit Abuse – Risk Management — Published reports on two southern California media Web sites illustrate the polarizing effects of laws affecting business. They’re applicable now even though they were published in November 2011. The first article in Signon San Diego, “Businesses fight ‘abusive’ lawsuits“, explains the fears and concerns of many small businesses.

6 Steps to Implement a Cultural Change for Profits — If your company is lacking in teamwork, morale is poor and profits are weak, chances are you need to change your organization’s culture. Be forewarned, changing a culture is a monumental chore because it will take strategic planning and super powers of persuasion.

18 Tips for Productive Behavior to Win in Office Politics — Office politics aren’t fun. Ironically, one of the most entertaining TV shows that’s all about office politics is “Suits.” It’s a fun, engaging and thrilling legal drama on the USA Network. Gabriel Macht plays the role of New York City corporate attorney Harvey Specter, who will do almost anything to win a case. His assistant is played by Patrick J. Adams as Mike Ross.

“To see a wrong and not to expose it, is to become a silent partner to its continuance.”

-Dr. John Raymond Baker

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Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.

Seattle business consultant Terry Corbell provides high-performance management services and strategies.