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Effective speak-up arrangements for whistleblowers: A multi-case study on the role of responsiveness, trust and culture

Effective speak-up arrangements for whistleblowers: A multi-case study on the role of responsiveness, trust and culture

Vandekerckhove, Wim ORCID: 0000-0002-0106-7915, Fotaki, Marianna, Kenny, Kate, Humantito, Ide Juang and Ozdemir Kaya, Didem Derya (2016) Effective speak-up arrangements for whistleblowers: A multi-case study on the role of responsiveness, trust and culture. Project Report. The Association of Certified Chartered Accountants (ACCA).

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This research project examined the opportunities, challenges and best practices associated with different types of speak-up arrangements, both internal and external, in a variety of organisational settings across different sectors, industries and locations.
While recent research on the topic has focused mainly on the experience of those who have ‘blown the whistle’, the approach used here explored arrangements for speaking up (‘speak-up arrangements’) from the viewpoint of those who develop, operate and oversee them, seeking to provide recommendations for an effective framework.
Findings from the investigation show that effective speak-up arrangements:
• involve a combination of different channels through which employees can voice a concern
• contribute to building trust through speak-up practices that evolve over time and are supported by the independence of speak-up operators
• rely on robust and consistent response systems that are supported by appropriate recording of speak-up events, coordinated follow-up activities, and willingness to respond at different management levels; there are nevertheless barriers to responsiveness caused by anonymous concerns, legal issues, and lack of a visible response, albeit inadvertent, and
• may need to take into account the potentially difficult interactions between organisational and national cultures.
These findings give rise to key recommendations for developing, operating and overseeing effective speak-up arrangements. These are further discussed in the ‘Recommendations’ section at the end of this report.

1. Provide a variety of voicing channels and consider the use of an external independent advice channel when introducing a speak-up arrangement.

2. Be prepared to accept that concerns received may not be strictly considered speak-up or whistle-blowing cases but some of them may nonetheless help organisations recognise previously unidentified risks.

3. Design a speak-up ‘back office’ to record concerns and use this data to strengthen risk management and response processes, investigation and intervention, acknowledging the variety of concerns that could be raised.

4. Ensure that responsiveness is well organised, clearly mandated and adequately resourced. Merely encouraging employees to speak up, without putting robust response systems in place, is likely to have negative consequences, for both employees and the organisation.

5. Make responses visible where possible. This may be achieved by exploring whether employees who raised a concern can be included in developing a solution to the problem; this in turn can contribute to developing collective sense-making and increase trust in the effectiveness of the speak-up arrangement. It is also important to emphasise continuously to managers at all levels that responding to concerns is part of their role, and to restrict their discretion about whether/how to respond.

6. Consider participating in the development of a standard for the public reporting of data from speak-up arrangements.

Item Type: Monograph (Project Report)
Uncontrolled Keywords: Speak-up arrangements; Trust; Whistleblowing
Faculty / School / Research Centre / Research Group: Faculty of Business
Faculty of Business > Centre for Work and Employment Research (CREW) > Work & Employment Research Unit (WERU)
Faculty of Business > Department of Human Resources & Organisational Behaviour
Last Modified: 23 Sep 2019 10:49

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