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Incorrect reporting – problems and misconceptions

Published: January 18, 2024

Whistleblower services have, over the years, gone from being a tool used by certain larger or particularly committed companies, to a legislatively mandated necessity. These channels are suddenly widespread in the business sector, among authorities and organizations. This has led to new patterns when it comes to problems and challenges.

One theme that is periodically discussed is erroneous reporting and its potential effects. There is occasional concern about how the operations can be harmed by misdirected reports. For example reports that are either not formally considered whistleblower cases or reports made in bad faith, meaning intentionally incorrect reporting.

The concern revolves around the risk that as a manager or employee, one might be hesitant to do their job or make decisions that could be perceived as tough. The fear is that as a manager, one might be defenseless against fabricated accusations.

It is, of course, desirable that problems are primarily discussed openly. However, as long as there is a willingness or tendency to report anonymously, it must be assumed that such a reporting avenue is a supplementary option that holds some kind of value. It may be viewed as a problem that employees want to report anonymously. But the solution is rather a long-term trust-building process through serious handling of problems, not eliminating the option to report anonymously.

The notion that a manager would be defenseless against baseless accusations presupposes a fundamentally unprofessional handling of whistleblower cases and a lack of professional staffing. Incorrect reports should, of course, be assessed on their merits. They should either be referred to the right department or dismissed in cases where the information is incomplete or the accusations cannot be substantiated. The assessment of whistleblower cases should always be carried out by a limited circle of professional individuals. These individuals should have good judgment and high trust among colleagues.

Some criticize whistleblower channels for being just another tool for gossip and mudslinging, as discussed in an article in the magazine Chef recently. However, in an organization where discerning individuals evaluate cases based on their actual merits, the whistleblower channel will become quite unattractive for spreading baseless accusations and incorrect reporting.

The problem is likely often the lack of professional staffing in whistleblower processes. In many of the smaller organizations that now must have whistleblower systems, relevant internal resources are lacking. New legal obligations are often regarded as something to be handled as quickly and easily as possible. This tends to result in the channel functioning less effectively than it could and perhaps even contributing to a poorer organizational culture rather than a better one.

Often, much of the work can be handled internally even in small organizations. But there are good reasons to have support from someone with experience in assessing and handling cases, understanding legislation and practice, establishing procedures to guide misdirected cases correctly, or managing correspondence with and feedback to a whistleblower to build a strong organizational culture and establish long-term credibility in the whistleblower channel.