Ethics hotlines are imperfect but add credibility for organizations trying to build values based cultures and win over skeptics.
There are always some threads of truth regarding some of these imperfections like encouraging people to avoid difficult conversations and taking easy paths by making corporate calls. Or, one of my favorites that I heard firsthand from an HR executive: several incidents involving employees complaining that a new boss was abusive to them via being held to higher standards of accountability and performance.
Building a robust ethics hotline takes commitment, time, and resources. There is evidence within Wells Fargo’s organization for example that their hotline was biased toward the executive teams that squashed legitimate concerns about consumer accounts being fraudulently created. The current investigation that was started by Wells’ Board of Directors with possible SEC/DOJ inquiries to follow is very fluid and may reveal additional issues.
That said, the pluses clearly outweigh the negatives on a number of fronts. Specifically:
- Hotlines allow organizations to detect concerns and problems. If truly anonymous in their construction and design, they help leaders address issues and increase total awareness.
- They induce a greater commitment to build an effective ethics and compliance program. The theory is that once you start building a house, improvements and remodelling can better take place with some foundation in place.
- The Department of Justice has written new guidelines with regards to compliance programs and ethics training being in place to minimize criminal and civil penalties. These guidelines contain as a key component a company hotline.
- Hotlines send a message that complaints will be heard, investigated with fairness, and resolved with a verdict.
My friends please remember this: respect, consideration, and courtesy matter a lot. Treat others fairly, decently, and equally.
Consult your moral compasses every chance you get and monitor your progress.
You know the battle cry: do your best each day. No one can ask more or less from any of us.
All the best/blessings, Mark