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Here’s why so many workplace issues go unreported

Employees know how to report issues but often don't due to retaliation fears, according to the Employee Experience Survey.
By: | October 18, 2019 • 2 min read
Many workers still feel unsure of reporting misconduct at work, according to new research.

Two years after the launch of the #MeToo movement, workers are still facing fears that their concerns won’t be taken seriously.

That’s according to the results of HR Acuity’s 2019 Employee Experience Survey. The company recently surveyed more than 1,300 workers across a variety of companies, industries, age groups and tenures to gain insight into how employees handled inappropriate workplace behavior and harassment. More than 56% of employees have witnessed or experienced inappropriate, illegal or unethical behavior, the study finds, but issues are often not investigated or are unreported because employees fear consequences or that they won’t be taken seriously.

See also: 5 way to encourage employees to report misconduct

Key findings of the study include:

  • Employees know where to report issues, but aren’t comfortable reporting them or confident in the processes that follow. Eighty-five percent (85%) of employees said they know how and where to report issues, but 39% lack confidence their issues will be addressed fairly, and 46% are afraid of retaliation.
  • Managers are the most trusted reporting avenue, with hotlines the least. Employees who report issues (67%), most often seek out their managers, with only 37% reporting to HR. Hotlines are the least used method, selected by only 6% of respondents.
  • Gender plays a role in whether issues are investigated. Men and women experience illegal or unethical behavior almost equally – but issues reported by men are 26% more likely to be investigated.
  • When issues are reported and investigated, trust in HR grows. Employees who reported concerns were 11% more likely than average to recommend that others with similar issues go to HR, 26% more likely when an investigation was conducted – and 43% more likely when the issue was resolved. In stark contrast, employees who reported issues that were not investigated were 41% less likely to recommend HR to colleagues, strongly negatively impacting trust in HR.
  • Reporting, investigating and resolving employee issues directly correlates to employer confidence and reduced turnover. Compared to the average rating, when issues were investigated and resolved – regardless of outcome – employees were 45% more likely to recommend their employer which is nearly the same as from employees who never experienced an issue (47%). And 20% of employees who don’t report, indicated they left the organization due to the issue.

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“This survey confirms that employers must build trust with their employees – and that HR, managers and processes all make an enormous difference toward that goal,” says HR Acuity CEO and Founder Deb Muller. “Employers value the idea of employee experience, but they still struggle with addressing employee issues. To build transparency and improve culture, organizations must implement a consistent, best-practice employee relations and investigations management approach that includes people, process and technology.”

Web Editor Michael J. O’Brien has been with HRE for more than a decade and holds a degree in economics from Boston College. He can be reached at [email protected]

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