Whenever workplace misconduct occurs, whether it’s harassment, discrimination, or any other inappropriate behavior, one question that often arises is, “Why didn’t anyone report it sooner?” As shocking as the incident itself might be, the silence surrounding it is often equally baffling to employers.
Studies indicate that 52% of employees have been subjected to or observed inappropriate behavior in the workplace. Yet, a notably large percentage (58%) chose to remain silent about these incidents. What causes this reluctance? Often, victims or witnesses fear that their concerns will be minimized, that they might face retaliation, or that their job security could be at risk. Additionally, a lack of adequate support can play a significant part in why employees are reluctant to report misconduct. Given these concerns, many deem it “easier” to overlook such incidents.
To shed light on why numerous misconduct incidents go unreported, we’ve compiled a list of reasons employees may choose silence and our insights for employers on addressing and mitigating this widespread concern:
Fear of Retaliation and Lack of Impartiality: One of the primary reasons employees don’t report misconduct incidents is the fear of retaliation. When employees muster the courage to voice their concerns or share what they’ve observed, they shouldn’t dread facing adverse consequences for their honesty. While the fear of harassment, discrimination, or unfair treatment is significant, the apprehension about potential threats or repercussions for coming forward can be even more unsettling.
Belief That Nothing Will Change: Some employees feel that even if they do speak up, their organization will not take any action. They may have witnessed past instances where misconduct was overlooked, or believe that the person responsible for the misconduct has too much power and influence in the organization.
Lack of Proper Resources and Awareness on How to Report: One of the most important reasons behind unreported misconduct is the lack of proper resources or awareness on how to report. Employees might feel unsafe and hesitant to report if they’re unclear on the reporting process. By clearly defining the steps to reach a resolution on workplace misconduct, holding regular training sessions on available resources and promoting a culture that encourages reporting, employees can begin to rebuild their confidence in reporting and consider bringing an incident to their manager or a reporting platform in the future.
Concerns Over Confidentiality: Although numerous organizations offer channels to report misconduct anonymously, not all employees have faith in these systems. There’s often a lingering apprehension that their identity could inadvertently be disclosed, resulting in adverse personal or professional repercussions.
The Way Forward
When employees hesitate to report misconduct, it can affect their mental well-being and job satisfaction, eventually leading to a toxic work environment lacking accountability and mutual respect. To cultivate a healthier, more positive work environment, employers must equip their employees with the necessary tools to raise concerns about misconduct and negative behaviors without fearing repercussions. This way, employees can move beyond the fear of backlash, concerns of mismanagement, or potential bias. By implementing a comprehensive incident management platform, like Work Shield, employers can champion a #BeHeard culture grounded in transparency and accountability. In such an environment, employees can confidently address their challenges without any lingering fear.
At Work Shield, we understand the critical importance of incident reporting. We’re aware that unspoken misconduct can have long-term repercussions for both the impacted individual and the entire organization. To address this, we’ve developed a dependable incident management platform. Using our system, organizations can foster a secure and credible space for reporting harassment and other workplace misconduct. This strategy not only minimizes the chances of incidents being missed but also bolsters employee trust and confidence in their workplace.