If employees experience workplace moral injury, fear retaliation, don’t trust their leaders, don’t know where to find the company’s speak-up channels, don’t understand the speak-up process, or are simply unaware of how to share their concerns, then potential wrongdoing and regulatory failures may go unchecked and harm your company culture. It’s clear that a healthy workplace culture is a non-negotiable, so where can you make the most impactful and practical changes?
Everyone wins when you shine a light on your ethics and compliance helpline and build a speak-up culture that reflects your organization’s values. Overcome the elements contributing to toxic company culture by managing and mitigating risk, engaging your employees in related helpline programs, and strengthening the connection between your workforce and your vision and values.
Download infographic: The impact of an effective helpline on speak-up culture
The World Health Organization (WHO) officially recognized burnout as an occupational phenomenon in 2019, listing symptoms such as exhaustion, increased mental distance from your job, and reduced professional efficacy. Well into year three of our “now normal”, the workplace stressors arising from the COVID-19 pandemic (childcare, remote schooling, work-from-home, etc.) don’t show any sign of abating; some groups, such as parents or caregivers, are still shouldering role-related strains. According to Deloitte’s Women at Work 2022: A Global Outlook study, “the pandemic continues to take a heavy toll on women: burnout, for one, has reached alarmingly high levels.” Recently, the conversation about burnout has evolved to recognize workplace moral injury as a more insidious form of burnout. According to Psychology Today, “moral injury predominantly impacts the sense of trust and/or self-respect, and burnout impacts one’s sense of engagement and efficacy.”
When an already burnt-out employee, mentally and physically exhausted from the past two-plus years of the COVID-19 pandemic, sees wrongdoing and feels powerless to change it, then new perks (such as additional paid time off or mindfulness at work campaigns) never stand a chance to make any impact. In fact, such gestures might be perceived as hollow lip service, exacerbating deeper issues, making your employees feel even more disengaged. Moreover, if an employee witnesses wrongdoing, but fears retaliation or doesn’t trust your speak-up channels, or that management fail to deliver on their promises to change things, then their feelings of powerlessness will impact their ability to feel grounded in who they are and feel connected to and invested in their work.
“…Workplace moral injury is a trauma response to witnessing or participating in workplace behaviors that contradict one’s moral beliefs in high-stakes situations with the potential of physical, psychological, social, or economic harm to others.”
A healthy speak-up culture is one of the most effective ways to manage and mitigate corporate risk, including a burnt-out workforce. Your helpline, along with your supporting corporate programs, helps employees win by demonstrating your corporate commitment to their psychological safety, organizational justice, and following through on your promises. A reluctant workforce will become mistrustful and suspicious of your organizational authenticity and will blame unclear policies, non-consistent management of issues, and related corrective actions. This will lead to a lack of trust in your speak-up processes and will reduce the confidence in reporting via your helpline, exposing your organization to unnecessary risk.