Workforce.com

Third-party Hotline Can Thwart Sabotage

July 1, 1999
The Columbine tragedy in Littleton, Colorado, has triggered a major campaign against campus violence by school administrators and legal professionals. The most effective tactical measure determined to date has been the promotion of disclosure by students who may know of classmates planning an act of violence. Employee sabotage is similar to campus violence in that it’s an inside job, and more often than not, others who work closely with potential or actual saboteurs are often aware or at least suspicious of their activities.

Providing employees with a third-party reporting mechanism that’s confidential and impartial is one approach being used by companies to head off internal sabotage. Monica Griffith, vice president of The Human Equation Inc., an HR consulting company based in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, says that a third-party reporting mechanism can be an effective defense against employee sabotage. "Unfortunately, there’s a lot of hostility and anger in the workplace today, and employers need to do what they can to protect themselves," says Griffith, whose firm offers the Employee Report Line, a toll-free, computerized line employees can use to report incidents of fraud, theft, sexual harassment and other wrongdoing in the workplace.

The premise behind the confidential service is that employees often know more about what’s going in the workplace than senior managers do. Very often they’re witness to, or passively exposed to unethical or illegal conduct, but typically won’t report these infractions out of fear of risking their jobs or damaging relationships with their peers. Though companies often depend on HR and internal employee hotlines to flush out these problems, many employees still won’t come forward because they fear their anonymity won’t be protected, and are concerned about retaliation.

Griffith says the Employee Report Line costs employers anywhere from $6.50 to $12.00 annually per employee. Once a company subscribes to the service, they provide employees with an access code to use when they want to report an incident. An automated attendant walks them through a series of prompts which asks them to identify the nature of the offense, choosing from a list of categories that includes workplace security, unethical conduct and sexual harassment. The automated attendant also prompts for a name of the alleged offender and a list of any witnesses—however, providing actual names is optional. At the end of the prompts, the employee has unlimited time to describe the incident or situation in detail.

Griffith and her staff provide the employer with a transcribed verbatim report of the call and include a recommendation for follow-up, which may involve seeking counsel, conducting an internal investigation, or other appropriate responses. Sometimes, Griffith says, the information is insufficient to act on, but it still provides the employer with an important "heads-up" warning.

Workforce, July 1999, Vol. 78, No. 7, p. 42.