Organizations should follow up on even subtle indications of unethical or illegal practices, discrimination, and harassment. Often, incidents occur in a relationship of mutual dependency, and both the victim and the accused fear the potential negative consequences resulting from a follow-up. All employees should be provided with clear information about the available confidential counselors and mediation bodies as well as internal and external counseling services when they join an organization. Larger organizations ideally create a whistleblower hotline or engage external services to safely report unethical or illegal practices.
After an incident of discrimination or harassment, the individual who is being harassed or discriminated against should decide at what level of escalation to report the incident. In any clarifying discussions, both parties should have an equal say and the option of being accompanied by a trusted person. An independent investigation must be initiated in the event of serious allegations. If these are confirmed, the organization must take disciplinary action and, if necessary, file criminal charges.
Unethical or illegal practices, discrimination, and harassment in the workplace can cause great harm to both the people affected and the organization. They can hinder the development of innovations, lead to unilateral dismissals and damage the organization’s public image. Implementing safe reporting mechanisms and early and transparent processing of incidents within the organization contributes to an inclusive and trusting working climate. It also prevents harmful behavior and protects whistleblowers and employees affected by discrimination or harassment from possible negative consequences beyond the original incident.