- Most employees (85%) in a new HR Acuity survey said they know how and where to report workplace issues, but a significant number (39%) have little confidence that issues will be appropriately addressed, and almost half worry about being retaliated against for reporting issues. The 2019 Employee Experience Survey polled more than 1,321 workers on how they handled workplace harassment and misconduct two years since the #MeToo movement took hold.
- Most respondents said they experienced or witnessed inappropriate, illegal or unethical behavior, and 64% of them reported it. But employees were more likely to report misconduct to their manager than to HR; hotlines were shown to be the least effective method for reporting misconduct, with just 6% of respondents favoring this process. As for follow-up, only half of reports were investigated; and although women and men reported complaints at similar rates, men’s complaints were investigated more often.
- Survey results showed that trust in HR rose when misconduct was reported and investigated. Respondents were 26% more likely to recommend reporting to HR when an investigation was actually conducted, and 43% more likely to recommend HR if the problem was resolved. Employees that reported issues that were not investigated were far less likely to recommend HR to colleagues — 41% less likely, in fact.
Trust in HR hangs in the balance when employees file complaints. The profession often was criticized following the rise of the #MeToo movement for alleged inaction when complaints were filed. Following up promptly on complaints, conducting investigations and being transparent about the results are measures that HR must take to gain workers' trust. While some complaints will require outside help, employment attorneys have said that HR professionals should feel empowered to conduct the majority of investigations themselves.
It may come as no surprise that a majority of respondents in the HR Acuity survey said they have experienced or witnessed some kind of misconduct; 90% of respondents in a poll by Monster said they had seen or were the target of bullying. Another study showed that while incidences of sexual harassment have dropped, gender harassment was on the rise. Although employees may choose to report misconduct to their managers, HR leaders may want to proactively address all forms of unacceptable behavior and build a culture of mutual respect and integrity.
Along with taking measures to gain employees' trust, HR can encourage employees to report serious infractions, including discrimination, harassment, theft or safety violations by creating a culture where workers feel safe reporting misconduct. Julie Stickney, vice president, human resources for aerospace manufacturer Cobham, previously told HR Dive that employers could encourage leaders to walk around and be visible in the organization — a tactic that makes it easier for employees to bring up problems. An open door policy, where employees can approach bosses with issues, also can be effective.