7 myths about whistleblowing

The EU’s new Whistleblower Directive has sparked a lot of discussion in both public and private sector organizations. This is understandable, and of course a good thing, because the EU Whistleblowing Directive, i.e. the directive on the protection of persons reporting violations of European Union legislation, is very broad. New things arise, and the mandatory whistleblower channel for reporting suspected abuses is no exception.

1. “There is already too much regulation. The Whistleblower Directive only makes things more difficult.”

There is a very common concern that the EU: Whistleblowing Directive brings with it claims affecting the operations of organizations. The concern is understandable, but somewhat unfounded. The purpose of the whistleblowing directive is to enhance the prevention and disclosure of fraud and corruption against the EU budget. Until now, the protection of whistleblowers has been uneven in the member states, and whistleblowers have not received proper protection against countermeasures in all situations.

A significant part of the fears and horror scenarios related to the increase in administrative work reflect reactions to recent requirements, such as the income register and GDPR data protection, which brought with them necessary obligations.

However, the situation is slightly different with regard to the Whistleblower Directive. It has already been recorded in the public eye to see a few examples of how those who have reported problems have been the target of car chases, both around the world and right here in Finland. The idea behind the EU’s Whistleblowing Directive is therefore quite justified.

Of course, new things always arouse some resistance to change, but if the goal is to develop an organizational culture in an open direction, and you really want to see what is happening in the organization, a reporting channel that enables anonymous, safe reporting is almost essential.

2. “Reports of abuse are handled by e-mail, if it is not possible to tell face to face”

Another common perception in many organizations is that anonymous Whistleblower channels are unnecessary because the same issues can already be handled with other existing tools.

Rarer, but even more noteworthy, is the point of view that sometimes emerges from the company’s management, that such a tool is not needed in their company, because the company has such a good work culture.

But how do you know that? Only very few organizations have investigated in any way whether the atmosphere is really as good as it is always assumed, and whether it is easy and safe for people to talk, for example, about abuses they have observed or other difficult issues at the workplace.

Through the Nordic Business Ethics Survey, it has become clear that people see a lot of unethical behavior in their workplace, but do not dare to report it. For this reason, acquiring a whistleblower notification channel to protect anonymity is an extremely good thing.

E-mails or inappropriate notification forms do not guarantee identity protection for the notifier, and in that respect do not meet the requirements of the EU Whistleblowing Directive.

3. “Whistleblowing complaint channels spoil the collective spirit and work atmosphere”

A slightly rarer, but even more cutting-edge view of the whistleblowing directive and making anonymous abuse reports is that whistleblowing and complaint channels spoil the collective spirit and work atmosphere of organizations and companies. Behind these views is the fear that, as a result of the notification channel, working time will start to be spent nagging and nagging colleagues at the workplace.

The fear is mostly unnecessary and easily solved – the keys to solving such a situation are in the management’s own hands. Without the genuine commitment of the management, the channel will hardly be very relevant in the organization.

According to Granite’s experience, in organizations that have opened an anonymous notification channel, the development of the collective spirit is mostly upward.

The number of anonymous whistleblowing reports has also been very low. The fear that there will be a huge number of HR-related issues in the anonymous notification channel, or that people will report it when they are jealous of someone or feel that they have been mistreated, is not relevant.

On the other hand, if there were a lot of announcements of this type on the channel, that would also be quite significant information for the organization. It probably indicates that the organization is in pain and maybe the culture in the company is not as good as it has been assumed.

When the information is made visible through the notification channel, it can be acted upon.

A lot can be solved with your own actions and communication. The management’s genuine commitment to the whistleblowing channel makes it meaningful and supports the spread of appropriate use.

4. “Anonymous notification channels become bullying channels. Screaming from hiding is easy.”

A common concern regarding whistleblowing is that Anonymous reporting channels are used for workplace bullying.

On a theoretical level, of course, this is possible, and you should be aware of it. Bullying naturally does not belong in the workplace, even though the starting points of the Whistleblower Directive are elsewhere.

Very often in the face of something new, especially in compliance matters like this, the gaze turns fatally easily to technical solutions. Of course, the implementation of the right operating model requires a compliant solution in whistleblower matters, but a mere anonymous Whistleblower channel is not enough in itself.

In terms of the implementation of the whistleblowing channel, it is important how the directive and especially the importance of the channel are trained for the personnel. Proper use of the anonymous reporting channel requires knowledge and understanding of what is reported in the channel and what belongs to others.

5. “Then who investigates these whistleblow reports?”

The EU’s Whistleblowing Directive not only obliges organizations and companies to enable anonymous reporting, but also directs the organizations covered by the directive to organize and thus carry out the investigation of whistleblower reports. In this sense, the question of whose responsibility it is to investigate reports of suspected misconduct is very important.

The general practice is that abuses and the investigation of suspected abuses are carried out by the compliance department, the legal side or the finance department.

In addition to this, many organizations that take accountability and compliance seriously also have a completely external person perform the first assessment of the whistleblowing report.

The anonymous reporting channel enables errors to be addressed immediately, which is often a significant financial saving for the company. When things are not dealt with, employees can complain directly to the authorities or even to the media, which in turn can even destroy the company.

At the moment, there are worries in the market, which is in a way written in the assumption that the future whistleblowing tip channel will become hot as soon as anonymous reporting is made possible.

This is unlikely to happen, full-time jobs investigating whistleblowing reports are unlikely to be created within any organization. Most of the time, however, it is generally recommended that several people participate in the processing process of anonymous reports, i.e. in addition to the technical whistleblower channel, the processing and investigation process should be carefully planned and considered.

6. “The whistleblower channel is just a new item of expense that does not produce anything at all”

The organization’s attitude to the whistleblower directive and the requirements it brings is largely a matter of values. If the organization is aiming for, for example, pioneering, responsibility or fairness, it is difficult to see that this directive would be in conflict with these values.

The reality is that there is misconduct in organizations, there is widespread incontrovertible evidence of this, it will always come to light over time, and ultimately even result in convictions.

The research of the Nordic Business Ethics Survey clearly shows that well-being employees are also more productive. In general, an employee feels good when he is able to live a life in accordance with his values at his workplace. If this is not the case, it is important that he has a channel through which he can tell about the things he observes. However, it is good to remember that this channel should not be the only way to make your voice heard.

It is only to the advantage of the organization if its discussion culture is open and there are other channels in use. However, the anonymity provided by the whistleblower channel should give protection to the whistleblower, enabling them to talk about things. From an organizational point of view, the whistleblower channel brings a lot of good things specifically in terms of reputation management, so that the management can get information in advance about which are the critical issues that need to be addressed.

Even if the effect of the anonymous notification channel is not immediately visible on the bottom line, neglecting the matter or not reacting to it can even derail the entire competitive field in an ever-changing market.

7. “It’s not worth rushing with the anonymous notification channel thing.”

The fact is that, on the surface, both procrastination and delay seem to be somewhat harmless ways to approach the EU’s Whistleblower Directive and the accompanying requirement for an anonymous reporting channel. However, when thinking about the principles of good governance and transparency, it is worth asking what kind of message is conveyed by only reacting in the face of necessity. With the entry into force of the Whistleblower Directive, it is fairly certain that the requirement for an anonymous reporting channel and proper handling of whistleblower reports will also find its way into public tenders in the future.

Although compulsion is often the most effective doctrine, it is business laziness to leave opportunities to develop your own operations to the last possible situation.

What the hell is Whistleblower Directive?

The purpose of the new legislation is to ensure that a person who, in connection with his work, detects or suspects activity contrary to the public interest in separately defined areas of EU law, can report the matter safely. The notices concern several areas of Union law.

Both private and public sector organizations must have a reporting channel where you can safely report abuse. In the private sector, the requirement applies to companies with at least 50 employees. In the public sector, the obligation applies to, for example, state administration, regional and provincial administrations, and municipalities.

The directive will become mandatory in all organizations and companies with more than 50 people or a turnover of 10 million, in municipalities and cities with 10,000 people, and in operations covered by the Money Laundering Act. A reporting channel tool that meets the requirements of the GDPR and is regularly audited can be found in Granite’s selections under the name Granite Whistleblow. It can be used to create an anonymous reporting channel for reporting abuse, collect information on the effects of operations and demonstrate compliance through automatic reporting.