Most managers will say that they want to receive information about issues and problems in their organization, including information about misconduct. They wish to see themselves as the type of manager who is open to input from employees, and they know that it is important to receive information about problems in a timely manner. They claim to have “an open door policy.” Nonetheless, when it comes to actual behavior, far too many managers are not nearly as open as they aim or profess to be. Rather than responding in a receptive manner when employees raise concerns, they respond with annoyance, hostility or defensiveness. They deny or dismiss the information. They pretend to listen, but then fail to act.
A consistent and disturbing theme from people who have internally reported misconduct is that the information “fell on deaf ears,” or worse, that they suffered negative career consequences for speaking up. Studies have also shown that it is common, across many different types of workplaces, for employees to feel that speaking up is futile, or that they cannot speak up about a suspected violation without fear of reprisal. As a result, regardless of how open managers think that they are, employees often choose to keep mum when they have concerns.
What accounts for these beliefs and behaviors related to raising issues? In some cases, they may stem from poor management or lack of ethical leadership. There are managers who truly do not want to know what is going on in their organizations. Yet even managers with good intentions, who care about ethics and open communication, may find it hard to be receptive and responsive to information about misconduct. What they do when confronted with such information diverges from what they believe or say that they would do. Continue reading