Reporting Misconduct – Is the Door Really Open?
All employees have an obligation to report suspicions of wrongdoing. UCF strives to create an atmosphere where employees feel comfortable raising, discussing, and reporting compliance and ethical questions and concerns. When concerns are discussed openly, we can correct issues before they turn into big problems. Our managers understand this and most of them practice an “open door” policy that encourages issues to be reported. But despite our best intentions, sometimes employees see nothing but trouble beyond that open door:
- “Open Door? Trust me, nobody wants to hear bad news.”
- “Why should I take the risk of reporting? Nothing’s going to change around here.”
- “If I talk to the boss about this, it’ll be all over the office in a couple of hours.”
- “I’m not reporting my co-worker. Nobody can force me to be a tattle-tale.”
Let’s explore some of the reasons that stop employees from reporting and some simple changes that can help to change their minds.
What Stops Employees?
Even if they are told that reports will be welcomed, employees have their own set of beliefs about what will happen if they report a concern.
- Management will retaliate: Employees may have seen or heard of others who were demoted, harassed, or even fired after they reported “bad news” to management.
- Reporting won’t change anything: This is the number one reason why people don’t report concerns. If management won’t do anything anyway, it’s safer to just ignore the issue than to report it.
- Misplaced loyalties: Some people feel that covering up mistakes or wrongdoing is part of being a friend.
Simply put, employees fail to report issues because their experience has taught them not to be involved. But in our workplace, we want things to be different.
Keys to Opening the Door
It may be difficult to change these beliefs, but it can be done when we consistently convey an attitude of openness. Here are some suggestions that every employee and manager can consider.
- Be proactive and alert to potential problem situations, and genuinely encourage open discussion by welcoming questions and issues whenever they arise.
- Allow people to speak up when mistakes are made or if someone seems out of line. Create a workplace where everyone is respectful and also respects our standards.
- Use staff meetings as a venue for discussion of ethical issues, so employees see ethics as a normal consideration in any business decision.
- When an issue is raised, take action. Involve experts such as HR or University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk, and take steps to initiate change.
Keeping the door open to honest communication fosters trust and improves relationships. We all need to take steps to ensure that our workplace truly has an open door that welcomes this kind of communication.
Reporting Misconduct and Protection from Retaliation
If you are not familiar with the UCF policy on reporting misconduct and protection from retaliation, we encourage you to read the full policy, available at Reporting Misconduct and Protection from Retaliation.pdf. This policy declares UCF’s commitment to a culture of integrity, compliance, and accountability that encourages the highest standards of ethical behavior. Members of the university community are expected to conduct all university activities and business in an honest, ethical, and lawful manner. When members of the university community become aware of or have reason to suspect university activities and business are not being properly conducted, UCF expects and encourages them to make good-faith reports of suspected misconduct. This policy includes protection from retaliation for anyone who, in good faith, reports misconduct, or who participates in an investigation on misconduct.
Reports and Investigations
UCF provides multiple resources for reporting suspected misconduct, clarifying a situation, or asking a question. We encourage you to use these resources.
An employee’s supervisor, or appropriate college, department, or unit administrator, are usually most familiar with the issues and personnel involved and, therefore, may be best suited to address a concern. Supervisors receiving reports of potential fraud should contact University Audit for guidance and investigation.
2. Central Offices
In some cases, an employee may feel uncomfortable raising a report of misconduct at the college or department or other similar administrative unit level due to the nature of the subject matter or because of other legitimate considerations that suggest an alternative reporting process may be more appropriate. In such cases, the employee may report through a central university office having specialized expertise relating to the concern.
3. University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk Office
Employees may also report suspected misconduct by contacting University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk directly by calling the chief compliance, ethics, and risk officer at 407-823-6263, by email to email@example.com, by mail to 4365 Andromeda Loop N., MH 328, Orlando, Florida, 32816.
4. UCF IntegrityLine
Employees reluctant to report suspected misconduct directly to their supervisors or through university administrative or central offices are encouraged to use the UCF IntegrityLine. The UCF IntegrityLine is administered by a third-party vendor, NAVEX Global, and offers employees the option to report anonymously. IntegrityLine reports will be processed by EthicsPoint and sent to University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk to address appropriately.
UCF takes reports of misconduct very seriously, and investigations will be conducted by the appropriate university office as applicable. Depending on the nature of the allegation, investigations may be conducted by University Compliance, Ethics, and Risk, University Audit, or the Office of Institutional Equity. These offices are trained to investigate issues while maintaining as much confidentiality as possible. It is important to let them do their job, and not try to find out more about who made the complaint or why. If an investigator interviews you, be sure to keep confidences. Do not talk to others about the situation, including other employees or anyone outside the university.
There are forms of retaliation that we all immediately recognize and know are wrong. These include job loss, demotion, transfers, poor performance reviews without cause, low pay increases, and public attacks on the character of someone who has made a report. This kind of retaliation is clearly against our university policy and is not tolerated here.
Most people would never intentionally retaliate against a co-worker who reported wrongdoing. Both supervisors and employees know that reports help our university, and that even bad news can help us make improvements that benefit us in the long run. But normal, human emotions can sometimes override our intellectual understanding, especially in difficult or uncomfortable situations. Each of us needs to be very aware that our words and attitudes can send subtle signals that can feel as much like retaliation as more blatant acts.
“We used to have lunch every week, but since I reported my concerns, my supervisor never asks me to join her.”
“When I walk into a room, the laughter stops. They must think I lost my sense of humor when I filed that report.”
“Getting information around here is like pulling teeth. Nobody tells me anything anymore.”
“Last week I made an excellent suggestion and my supervisor totally ignored it. She used to listen to me, but not now.”
There is another, more subtle form of retaliation that may happen when reports are made. What are signs of subtle retaliation? Perhaps even without realizing it:
- Information is withheld from the person who made the report – perhaps to keep him or her from pointing out something else that is wrong.
- The reporter is not included in social events.
- His or her suggestions are ignored.
- Co-workers and supervisors use body language to create distance, or allow anger to come out as sarcasm or jokes.
These actions send a powerful message and make employees reluctant to report problems.
Whether you are a supervisor or employee, your actions matter. It is important to be aware of any subtle messages you may be sending whenever an issue is raised. Tone of voice and body language can convey more than your words. Looking away as a person approaches, sitting with arms folded, turning away from them in meetings, sending other people a disapproving look behind the person’s back – all of these may be interpreted as retaliation, which is against our policy and may lead to negative consequences including fines or loss of your job.
Remember that your intention has nothing to do with how your actions are perceived. Although you might not intend to retaliate, the other person may perceive your words or actions that way. Each of us must take steps to keep our own emotions in check and avoid the dangers of subtle retaliation.