Anonymity in whistleblowing: The pros, cons, and solutions
Whistleblowing systems play a crucial role in detecting misconduct and promoting ethical behavior within organizations. However, in reality, the very act of “blowing the whistle” can put whistleblowers at great risk.
Among other risks, those who choose to disclose misconduct may experience retaliation, harassment, or other professional repercussions. Given the risks, it is no surprise that individuals are often hesitant to report the suspected misdemeanors they come across. According to the ACFE study, the longer it takes for a fraud to be identified, the larger the potential damage to the organization.
To overcome these risks, it is important for organizations to promote a culture of trust and transparency. Anonymity in whistleblowing systems can play a pivotal role in fostering these cultures.
The pros and cons of anonymity
According to a survey conducted by ACFE and IAA, respondents claim that anonymity is their top consideration for the success of a whistleblowing system. Success in this context refers to a system that works effectively to detect misconduct or fraud.
By allowing individuals to report misconduct without having to disclose their identities, organizations provide a layer of protection against potential retaliation. This layer of protection encourages employees to speak up, knowing that their privacy will be respected and that they will be shielded from possible negative consequences.
While anonymity has its benefits in supporting organizational ethical culture, it also has its downsides. One such downside is the investigators’ inability to establish two-way communication with the whistleblower. Such communication is required to collect additional information and evidence, clarify reported violations, or validate evidence. The absence of such communication can impede the investigation process.
This downside is the reason why some organizations disregard anonymity in their whistleblowing systems. By choosing a competent and experienced third-party whistleblowing system, however, organizations may overcome the communication challenges associated with this attribute.
Addressing the challenges
Why use a third-party whistleblowing system? First, a third party would be an external entity with no vested interest in the organization, ensuring an objective approval and follow-up process for reports.
Second, the company does not need to allocate additional human resources and time to create, administer, and develop its own system for reporting misconduct. As a third-party whistleblowing solution, Canary WBS provides a centralized web application with multiple reporting channels for ease of use. Clients have access to reports, while the whistleblower’s identity is protected.
Additionally, the Canary Mute feature enables two-way communication between the whistleblower and investigator without requiring the whistleblower to provide personal information, such as an email address or phone number. Whistleblowers can submit reports and receive updates (including communicating with investigators) without creating an account, using only their report identification number and a password.
Instead of requesting personal details, whistleblowers will only need to reveal information pertinent to the reported violation. This includes details like the evidence source and the whistleblower’s role within the organization – specifically, whether they are an internal or external party. The aim is to streamline the investigation process.
Contact us for additional details regarding the Canary® Whistleblowing System and our other compliance services.
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