In recent years, workplace misconduct has been in the spotlight. Between the wake of the #MeToo movement and high-profile bullying and harassment cases involving celebrities, politicians and corporate executives, this important issue has garnered plenty of media attention.

However, despite the growing awareness of how damaging misconduct can be, it begs the question: Why does it persist? Why don’t those who experience it report it? And why don’t those who witness it speak up?

Through our extensive experiences as HR Advisors and Workplace Investigators, we’ve identified three reasons people fail to report misconduct at work.

Reason #1: Position in the organization

Power and position can be major barriers to taking action and speaking up against misconduct. If someone witnesses inappropriate behaviour or thinks they may have, they likely won’t report it out of fear of making waves and suffering retaliation. For the average worker, reporting misconduct comes with the very real fear of their position coming under threat. If there are no clear processes or policies in place for dealing with misconduct, employees are more likely to turn a blind eye.

Reason #2: Prevalence of the misconduct

While bullying and harassment may very well be happening at work, it’s not uncommon for employees to miss the signs and let subtle behaviours slide if a policy isn’t in place and appropriate training hasn’t been implemented. When employees are slowly exposed to a pattern of subtle behaviours over a long period of time, they may simply see misconduct as status quo. This prevalence and pervasiveness of misconduct can lead to a toxic corporate culture where it’s more acceptable to put your head in the sand than to report disrespectful, unfair treatment.

Reason #3: Processes for reporting (or the lack thereof)

Without a formal process for reporting misconduct, employees are left wondering: Who should I tell? Setting up a clear, transparent and preferably anonymous channel for reporting complaints is key to creating a “speak up” workplace culture. Start by developing a policy that protects employees and establishes a code of conduct, train everyone on how to recognize inappropriate behaviour, and implement a mechanism that allows employees to confidentially report issues without fear of retaliation.

At Cenera, we are skilled in developing comprehensive policies, facilitating Respectful Workplace Training, and we also provide an external helpline service that enables employees to call in anonymously and speak candidly with our HR advisors about suspected misconduct. To learn more, contact us today to book a complimentary consultation.

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