The Relationship between Procedural Justice and Resolving Employee Concerns

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Today’s Ethics Resource Center (ERC) Fellows Program Survey, Encouraging Employee Reporting through Procedural Justice, noted the effects procedural justice can have on employee support for a hotline/helpline.  Some of the results are a bit surprising.

The top five conclusions from the Survey were:

  1. Opinions on fairness of an ethics investigation depend less on outcome and more of the perception of a fair process.
  2. Fairness was generally determined by trust in the quality of the investigation and the ultimate decision.
  3. The sense of satisfaction or lack thereof, comes more from the perception of the process. Reporters can be happy with the process even if they are not aware of outcomes.
  4. Perception of the process correlates directly to broader feelings about the company. When reporters feel like the process has been fair and neutral, they have a better perception of the employer and may be more willing to report future incidents.
  5. The positive effects of procedural justice were less impactful on reports which related to more personal issues of sexual harassment, violence or discrimination. Just feeling good about the process did not give reports the same level of comfort when they felt threatened in the workplace. These issues may require a more nuanced approach.

Here are some suggestions for improving the sense of procedural justice in your workplace:

  • Broadly communicate information about your helpline process and reporters’ expectations when they make a report.
  • Communicate some level of activity from your helpline. You don’t have to report specific outcomes, but showing reporters that investigations happened timely gives them a sense that your helpline is not a “black hole” as many like to claim. If possible, contact the reporters when a matter is closed and let them know the investigation was handled and is closed.
  • Make sure that all levels within your organization are investigated and disciplined in a consistent and fair way.
  • Ensure that no retaliation is tolerated in the event of an investigation. This requires cultural support as well as training and monitoring. A perception of retaliation is the quickest way to shut down the benefits of helpline.

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