Everyone will have experienced it at some point - whether as an employee or employer - the journey together does not always last a lifetime. Sometimes you part on good terms, sometimes on bad terms. The circumstances can be different and it does not always end peacefully. But if a whistleblower suddenly emerges with allegations that, in the worst case, could have legal consequences, action must be taken.
Even if it is rather unusual in Europe, such developments can occur at any time. However, there are also countries in which this behaviour is part of the culture and occurs frequently. It is a question of one's own reputation, which one would like to restore in society.
(False) accusations can also come to light in other places and not only from former employees. Ex-business partners with whom you no longer want to work together and who thus make a high loss or competitors who want to secure the market leadership - there are the most diverse reasons to want to harm a company.
How can you tell? Here are some examples from the experienced practice:
- A former employee wants to restore his reputation with the company after being terminated and accuses management of misuse of company property and theft.
The management is threatened with criminal charges and corresponding investigations.
- A former accounting employee accuses his employer of tax evasion and non-compliant conduct.
The company faces legal consequences.
- One of the largest competitors wants to strengthen its market position and has rumors spread through various channels. The company is accused of paying bribes to obtain public contracts.
There is a threat of prosecution and jail time.
- A business partner who is no longer satisfied with the cooperation and has not been able to assert himself in negotiations of new conditions puts the company under pressure with false statements and thus tries to impose his own will.
Avoid negative reputation due to whistleblowers
There are two important rules for aggrieved parties: the allegations must not be ignored, nor should one panic. Allegations, and especially the sources from which they spring, must be checked for accuracy and motivation before management, staff, etc. are driven crazy. The repercussions of doing so could, in the worst case scenario, lead to reputational damage or other negative consequences. After all, who wants to work with or for a company that is regularly accused of paying bribes or behaving improperly toward employees? The key is to remain calm and check the allegations or have them checked so that any weaknesses can be eliminated as quickly as possible.
It becomes particularly serious when the accusations come from several sources. A former employee is venting his frustration - as a company, you can rise above that. However, if the same accusations are also made by other people, perhaps even from within the company's own management, the situation should be taken seriously, the processes reviewed and, if necessary, the culprits sought and appropriate measures taken.
Recognize backgrounds and apply lessons learned
Even if a company goes into crisis mode with the appearance of a whistleblower and reacts to allegations in an ad hoc manner, long-term consequences must be drawn from the situation. In the best case, it is confirmed that there are no gaps in the processes and everything is running smoothly. But how could it come to pass that the allegations did not come to nothing in the first place?
For example, excessively loose procedural rules within the company that allow leeway for such allegations and make them appear to be true should be adjusted immediately.
Here you can learn more about our possible approach:
Have you dealt with the issue yet?
Test yourself and your company: Can you answer the following questions with 'yes'?
- You have already put out your feelers and will be informed as soon as new information about your company emerges?
- Do you have an emergency plan that takes into account unexpected reactions of (former) employees and can be used at any time?
- Have you faced allegations in the past and tweaked any vulnerabilities that encourage rumor mongering?