Blog | Inappropriate Behavior in the Workplace: What Businesses Need to Do Today

Published April 10, 2018

Inappropriate Behavior in the Workplace: What Businesses Need to Do Today

Businesses have had their wake-up call. In the wake of high profile sexual harassment scandals and the #MeToo movement, companies understand there needs to be more than just a shift in the conversation. CEOs and owners are looking for real solutions to create positive change within their organizations.

And although harassment has been highlighted in recent media, the issues extend further encompassing all inappropriate behaviors in the workplace. Drug and alcohol abuse, discrimination, health and safety violations, fraud, bribery and financial improprieties—organizations are realizing their responsibility extends far beyond the financial bottom line. As such, the question remains: How do businesses identify, manage and address inappropriate behaviors in the workplace today?

 

#1: Transparency

Creating clear, effective and transparent communication channels is the first step. Employees need to know what their rights are, who to contact and how to report through the proper channels. If individuals or employees are unsure of how, where, or what to report, it could have devastating results.

Having the reporting mechanism is one thing, leveraging whistleblower insight is quite another. For businesses to move forward in their quest for real solutions, they must embrace both aspects equally and wholeheartedly.

Establishing a Whistleblower Solution

The Financial Times notes “…gaping holes in the way organisations and companies handle whistleblowers” in the UK financial sector. The U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission found “…roughly three out of four individuals who experienced harassment never even talked to a supervisor, manager or union representative about the harassing conduct.” It’s critical for employers to make reporting easy and anonymous. You can only deal with issues if you know about them.

Leveraging Whistleblower Insight

On the flipside, employers need to be committed to the communication and transparency these channels create. 80% of successful whistleblowers reported their concerns internally before taking them public. The Nordic Labour Journal recently published an entire piece on whistleblowers needing more protection stating, “#metoo has highlighted how widespread this kind of harassment has been in Norwegian working life, and shown us it has not been properly handled in many workplaces…” Organizations need to be accountable and transparent in leveraging the insight they gain.

Though sexual harassment has deservedly been in the spotlight, businesses need to be concerned with all inappropriate behaviors: regulatory compliance, health and safety, security and more. Whistleblower solutions should be the first step. They empower employees to take action and enable businesses to be accountable.

 

#2: Proactive Culture

Whenever a scandal ends up in the headlines, the result is a reactionary response to what has already gone wrong. This is never where a business owner wants to be. Companies need a proactive approach to understand their risks and create an inclusive and transparent culture.

What does a proactive approach look like? It starts with dialogue. Organizations and employees need to embrace an open and communicative dialogue across the business, a far cry from today. And they need to protect this open, proactive culture. The Banking Standards Board reveals nearly 60% in the financial sector feared “negative consequences” if they raised issues or concerns. With similar statistics existing across countries and industries, there’s a clear breakdown in communication within organizations today.

In addition to authentic dialogue, organizations need to embrace diversity and create inclusive environments. Dutch brewing company, Heineken, recently came under heat for its racist ad. Citing various similar examples, the New York Times notes that by simply having more diverse teams, organizations can become more culturally aware. Companies that make a commitment to diversity and inclusivity can positively impact their own workplace culture as well as the larger marketplace. A proactive culture also helps recruit and retain top talent, drives a loyal and dedicated workforce and leads to increased productivity.

 

#3: Accountability

We know that investors are placing a higher value on companies that can show positive ESG data. We also know that consumers are eager to support businesses that they view as sustainable and socially conscious. While policies are a great place to start, they only show intention. Businesses need to be able to capture real-time data—and report on those policies—to ensure action. They need to bridge the gap between policy and practice.

In a recent Forbes interview, CenterPoint Energy’s Director of Investor Relations notes, “…investors are looking for companies to provide common metrics such as CO2 emissions and detail on environmental stewardship, social policies and contributions. They also want to invest with companies that are transparent, have solid business practices and are committed to doing the right things for their stakeholders.” Society demands more of businesses across the board: effective accountability and authentic action.

Whistleblowing solutions not only call out wrong-doing, but they make sure that companies act when it comes to concerns about misconduct, safety and compliance. ESG data is invaluable for finding and addressing problems but also spotting unique opportunities. When companies understand where they are doing well and where they have fallen short, they can come up with solutions to better meet those challenges. The technology, solutions and will are out there. Companies need only sign-on to start making an impact.

 

What Does the Future of Work Look Like?

#MeToo, sexual harassment, racism, retaliation, drug and alcohol abuse, health and safety violations, fraud, bribery and financial improprieties—these all denote specific inappropriate behaviors within organizations. They also shine a light on what businesses need to do to progress today united by themes of governance, transparency and accountability.

And rightfully so, leadership often comes into question with the onslaught of illegal, immoral, and controversial cases of corporate misconduct. “We don’t need more leaders, we need better leadership.” Questback CEO Frank Møllerop highlights a theme that ran strong at last week’s Bersin by Deloitte IMPACT conference. “Visible leadership and zero tolerance policies. We need leaders that will change the standard of what is acceptable behavior.”

It starts with establishing effective whistleblowing channels based on continuous listening, authentic dialogues and accountability. The Future of Work is here, it is up to us to determine what it looks like.

 

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