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The confidant’s dilemma

Anonymity, a requirement for a low-threshold reporting system, is not always attainable. Procedures and legal proceedings can lead to the confidant being forced to reveal the identity of the reporter. This not only damages the rights of the reporter concerned, it also has a devastating effect on trust in the internal reporting system. Therefore, reports will be made less often. Practical limitations raise the reporting threshold, such as only being accessible during working hours, meetings often being by appointment, and colleagues being informed of the scheduled appointment last minute.

There are several ways in which an organisation can set up a procedure for reporting wrongdoings. For the success of a reporting procedure, it is crucial that the reporting threshold is kept as low as possible. After all, any resistance can prevent an important notification from being made, and management therefore cannot respond. Many organisations have appointed a confidant to receive notifications. However, the use of a confidant has a number of disadvantages that prevent this from being seen as a low-threshold reporting option:

  • The limitations within which the confidant works: a confidant often holds a part-time position, assigned to an employee who is already responsible for another set of duties. A notification usually comes unexpectedly and inconveniently. Moreover, the confidant cannot be expected to have the knowledge to handle reports appropriately, ranging from sexual harassment to complex frauds.
  • Further prejudice to confidentiality: being appointed as a confidant is often temporary; positions often change. This means that the person to whom you made a confidential report last month may no longer be in a position where that information can be handled appropriately.
  • Confidants are often “too close” to the reporter: they are in the same organisation, perhaps in the same department, and they are not separated enough from the organisation and management.

Sometimes, partly because of the latter, the choice is made to employ a confidant outside the organisation. Although this increases the distance between them and the reporter, it can also negatively affect the reporting threshold. In addition, an external confidant must always first contact people within the organisation because they lack the in-depth knowledge of the organisation.

We do not consider the use of a confidant to be the best solution for potential reporters or for the organisation. To deal with these disadvantages, People Intouch has developed the SpeakUp® system. This internal reporting system is 100% anonymous, available 24/7 via multiple channels, and it ensures that notifications are sent to the relevant people within the organisation directly, without further mediation.

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