How to Report Unethical Behavior in the Workplace

Confidentiality is often a concern when reporting unethical workplace behaviors.

Confidentiality is often a concern when reporting unethical workplace behaviors.

Companies encourage employees to report unethical behavior in the workplace; however, this does not always occur. Fear of retaliation or losing a job are primary reasons why such behavior is unreported. Nevertheless, one has an obligation to report possible unethical behavioral, or it will continue to be tolerated and unpunished.

Document the behavioral you perceive as unethical. You may need proof or witnesses of the behavior or actions. The more evidence you have, including voice mails, emails, documents, files and testimonials you gather, the stronger your case.

Report the unethical behavior to your supervisor. The first line of reporting such incidents or actions is with your direct boss. Your boss is trained to manage situations and know how to diffuse or escalate as necessary.

Contact your organization’s confidential compliance or ethics department or officer. Some companies have a hotline or email address where you can anonymously leave a message. If you leave your message anonymously, the investigator won’t be able to contact you for further discussion or provide you with any follow-up or outcomes from the report.

Go directly to Human Resources if you suspect a serious legal or policy breach. If the unethical behavior violates policy or even the law, you have an obligation to report it. Every company’s HR department is equipped to handle unethical behavior reports and consult with legal counsel, quality and auditing departments and other management as necessary. HR is also able to impose warnings, demotions and firings as the situation warrants. Lastly, HR policies will protect you from retaliation, should any occur.

Tips

  • Don't report unethical behavior based on gossip or a hunch. Gather proof and be certain of its existence before reporting.
  • Follow proper reporting procedures, which are in place for protection, and do not deviate from the process.
 

About the Author

Francine Richards is a licensed multi-state insurance agent with years of human resources and insurance industry experience. Her work has appeared on Blue Cross Blue Shield websites and newsletters, the Houston Chronicle and The Nest. Richards holds a Bachelor of Arts in communications from the University of Maryland.

Photo Credits

  • Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images