Whistleblowing, the act of exposing wrongdoing within an organization, is a courageous act that aims to uphold ethics and protect the public interest. Many companies provide hotlines for employees to report concerns and misconduct confidentially.
While these hotlines may seem like a safe and straightforward way to blow the whistle, there are several reasons they may be risky. Thus, whistleblowers may want to exercise caution before using them.
Company hotlines offer limited anonymity. While these hotlines claim to keep whistleblowers’ identities confidential, there is always a risk that someone within the organization might uncover the source of the report. If this happens, the whistleblower could face retaliation or harm to their professional reputation.
Potential for retaliation
Whistleblowers often fear retaliation from their employers and colleagues. Reporting through company hotlines does not guarantee protection against retaliation.
Another downside of using company hotlines is the quality of the investigations that follow. Since the company controls these hotlines, it may have an interest in downplaying or even suppressing reports of misconduct to protect its own reputation.
Lack of transparency
Transparency is important in whistleblowing cases. When using a company hotline, whistleblowers may have little to no access to the investigation process or its outcomes. This lack of transparency may make it difficult for whistleblowers to know whether their actions had a positive impact.
While blowing the whistle via a company hotline is risky, research shows that the number of Americans making reports through other methods is increasing. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission received more than 12,300 whistleblower tips during the last fiscal year; the highest number ever received within that timeframe.