Should you reward people for blowing the whistle?

When thinking of ways to increase the likeability of people speaking up, financially rewarding your employees may seem like a logical step to take. Providing a money reward may give people who are nervous about voicing their concerns another, more tangible, incentive to do so. If rewarding increases the amount of reports, isn’t this a favourable option to consider?

However, the question is to be asked whether this is the incentive that you want reporters to be motivated by.

As an organisation, you want your people to be honest and sincere when they voice their concerns. Through our years of experience in the field, we have found that if someone really believes something is wrong, this person will blow the whistle regardless of whether a reward is being offered. In other words, if a reward is being offered, it is likely that the decision to blow the whistle will shift from ‘doing the right thing’ to a trade-off between cost and benefit. From a benefit point of view, it might then make sense to wait to report something, until it becomes very serious (thus enlarging the chance of a reward). This is of course detrimental to the goal of having a reporting mechanism in place: detecting misconduct as soon as possible.

We strongly believe that giving your employees the feeling that they can freely and anonymously speak up about perceived wrongdoings is key to creating an open SpeakUp culture. Money rewards will not incentivise your employees in the right way. Instead, companies are better off creating social courage. This implies encouraging people to speak up for moral reasons, because they genuinely think something is wrong. An open and more cooperative working environment in which people feel at ease will ultimately be the result of this.

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