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Memo to Managers
Identifying and Eliminating Retaliation: Educated Managers and Supervisors are Our Best Defense
As a manager or supervisor you are the first line of defense in preventing retaliation. All too often, managers and supervisors at some companies get this wrong: we want to make sure we get it right.
Managers and Supervisors are Critical to Anti-Retaliation Efforts
Training and awareness of how to spot retaliation—as well as knowing how to prevent it—are crucial for all organizations. As a manager or supervisor you need to know how to receive and handle reports without retaliating, and how to spot and halt any retaliation you may observe.
Respondents to the Ethics Resource Center’s 2013 National Business Ethics Survey (“ERCBES”) indicated that employees initially report issues to their managers or supervisors over 60% of the time. However, if employees perceive that their “reward” for internal reporting of non-compliance will be retaliation, they are much less likely to report issues of concern to their manager. They may also potentially avoid internal reporting altogether and go directly to a regulator or to the media. In these cases the company is denied the first opportunity to fix the problem.
The ERCBES statistics also showed that 21% of respondents reported being retaliated against for reporting misconduct. We must strive to ensure that this statistic does not apply to the way our organization handles reports of compliance failure.
How can we significantly reduce the instances and perception of retaliation in our company?
Managers and supervisors have a crucial role to play in identifying and eliminating retaliation. Key steps to take include:
1. Understand What “Retaliation” Means
To get a full understanding of our company’s views on retaliation, be sure to read our Code of Conduct and policies on retaliation. In the past, retaliation generally took the form of a manager firing an employee for reporting them for a compliance failure. However, there are often many more subtle ways of retaliating such as:
- Giving an unmerited negative performance review
- Assigning the reporter a less attractive sales territory
- Taking away the reporter’s overtime opportunities
- “Disinviting” the reporter to routine meetings
These kinds of behaviors are considered retaliation, and are unacceptable.
2. Support our “Open Door” Policy
Communicate to your employees how important it is to you and to the company that they feel free to come to you and discuss any violations. Make sure they know that if they do report to you in good faith, the report will be properly handled and there will be no retaliation by you, even if you are named or involved in the alleged violation.
Make sure you say thank you to the employee for coming forward and reporting the issue, and assure them that retaliation is not acceptable and violates company policy.
Additionally, effectively using the “Open Door” policy is part of your higher fiduciary responsibility as a manager and supervisor.
3. Be on the Lookout for Peer-to-Peer Retaliation
In addition to retaliation by a manger or supervisor, the next most likely source of retaliation can be the reporter’s peers. Non-management employees may believe that a peer reporter “sold them out” or got their work group or favorite boss in trouble. This peer response can unleash the most subtle retaliation, often to devastating effect.
As a manager, you have a duty to be on the lookout for this peer-to-peer retaliation and put a stop to any action which might be perceived as retaliation.
4. Follow and Document Good Processes
To demonstrate fairness, make sure that any issue resolution follows a consistent and well-established process which includes:
- Maintaining confidentiality
- Promptly conducting an appropriately thorough investigation
- Documenting the process
- Involving legal and HR departments in the process early
We need to do everything possible to identify and eliminate all forms of retaliation so that our employees are comfortable knowing that they can and should report issues of noncompliance to our managers.
Questions of the Month
Q: One of my employees seems to have it in for me and is being very disruptive to the team. Their last helpline report about a safety violation on my shift was the last straw. I want to move them to the late shift so that I don’t have to deal with them anymore. Is this a problem?
A: Yes. Never take action against an employee who has reported compliance violations. If there are other legitimate performance issues with this employee, then involve our HR or legal department to make sure that the solution cannot be labeled retaliation.
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