The recent media attention around various high-profile harassment allegations brought to mind an incident from my early days as a restaurant manager. I reported my GM’s misconduct to his boss and her first response was to ask me why I hadn’t confronted him directly about his behavior. I told her: “I tried, but he got angry and now treats me even worse.” Her reply? “What a shame that that’s the way it has to be.” End of discussion. And then? A quick transfer (for me) that most would consider a demotion to another F&B outlet. Not surprisingly, I resigned shortly afterward and that same GM was fired several months later for the same misconduct I originally reported after others expressed similar concerns.
Since then, my experience as a fraud investigator both in and out of the lodging and foodservice industries has taught me a great deal about workplace dynamics in the face of alleged wrongdoing. Most employees yearn for a place to work, and a team of coworkers, that they can be proud of, feel a part of, and know their contributions are valued. If they are willing and able to find the courage to speak out about an issue they feel is detrimental to themselves, their workplace, or their team, they should be heard with objectivity, respect and confidentiality – free from any form of retaliation or victimization for reports made in good faith.
This is why I now advocate the active solicitation (anonymous or not) of feedback from employees who want to do what’s right when they see a wrong. I also champion investigating every single report to ensure that brewing problems are addressed BEFORE they become major issues. Are they all valid? No. But most are, and it’s well worth a little professional “triage” to weed out the false reports.
Acknowledging and SWIFTLY investigating and resolving employee concerns about unethical or illegal behavior has an exponentially positive effect on individual and team morale, and ultimately, on your business. In fact, fraud experts estimate that the typical organization loses 5% of annual revenues to fraud. Wouldn’t you like to know where that 5% has gone? Someone in your organization may have an idea.
So, this brings me back to my original question: What are your employees not telling you? Better yet, what have they already tried to tell you and what steps are you taking to make sure they’re heard?