Organisations frequently ask that we merge all our insights into one compact overview. While challenging, this is a request we would love to make an effort for. Hence, we came up with this first version of the SpeakUp Success Model. We started by gathering all the feedback, knowledge and best practices of the past 18 years in one huge mind map. We then organised all the information in eight main components of success. The purpose of the model is to create an all-embracing framework for an effective SpeakUp Programme. More importantly, we hope to inspire and encourage an alternative perspective on the topic of whistleblowing. The SpeakUp Success Model consists of the following components:
For our previous posts of the SpeakUp Success Model Series:
SpeakUp Success Model: Balanced Anonymity
A solid SpeakUp Culture is the first step to making your SpeakUp Programme a success. Building on purpose and simplicity, the fourth component of our SpeakUp Success Model elaborates on the fundamental concept of anonymity.
Anonymity is defined as the situation where someone’s name is not given or known. So what could the term balanced suggest? By balanced anonymity we want to communicate the following contrast: while anonymity is essential in misconduct reporting (e.g. SpeakUp®), it also entails some potentially negative aspects that must be mitigated.
What makes anonymity vital?
Anonymity is the ultimate way to lower the barriers for people to make the first step. It clearly guarantees protection, but it, more importantly, gives the reporter control over the information shared. You have to consider that even if the reporting mechanism provides full anonymity to the reporter, it cannot do the same for the information that the reporter shares. The person can (by default) remain fully anonymous but still choose to identify themselves and/or others in their message.
Therefore, allowing the reporter to decide how much to reveal and when is crucial in establishing a viable communication cycle. On one side, you make the reporter feel protected which facilitates trust building. Based on the level of trust, you can ask follow-up questions and gather more information. It’s a two-way street.
However, you must remember that alongside whistleblowers, you must also protect those accused. Their rights are equally important and should in no case be neglected. This is often why full anonymity is approached with some hesitation.
Overcoming anonymity concerns
Uncertainty around anonymity is rooted in fears of the system being used for the wrong reasons such as potentially false and calculated accusations. There’s also the worry that full anonymity can promote a “tattletale” culture over a healthy and open communication one. While we understand such concerns, we still consider fully anonymous reporting to be of vital importance. If anonymity is enforced through professional case-handling tools and procedures which prioritise an uninterrupted, fact-finding communication, then the accompanying fears can be attenuated.
Our suggestion for a sharp adoption of anonymity is the last-resort principle: employees should go down the anonymous SpeakUp® path only after they’ve determined the more conventional ways of initiating a discussion not to be an option. This is the key to a balanced anonymity. It is there to encourage speaking up exactly enough without becoming a cloak for ill-intentioned reporters.
In this regard, anonymity could in some cases be a temporary step of the reporting process. In other words, if you manage to develop enough trust during the communication cycle, the reporter can even decide to voluntarily reveal their identity. The bottom line is that a correct use of anonymity is an indispensable element of any righteous misconduct management programme.
- recognise anonymity as vital
- understand the potential concerns around anonymity
- make anonymity part of your SpeakUp Programme
- handle anonymity as an asset in enabling people to make the first step
- allow the reporter to be in control of the anonymous communication cycle
- prioritise building trust and protecting the reporter
- remember to also protect the accused
- position anonymity as a last-resort option
- set up professional case-handling tools and procedures
Anonymity is a pre-requisite for creating feelings of safety. In our next post on the SpeakUp Success Model, we’ll share information about making your SpeakUp Programme as safe as it can be. Subscribe to our Newsletter to stay informed about upcoming posts and other relevant whistleblowing news.