By Andrew Hedges

Can workplace corruption be halted?

Is there a way to stop workplace corruption from mushrooming or thriving? It obviously has to trickle from the top down, so managers and supervisors need to be made aware of their role in changing the culture.
If there is a real desire to tackle workplace corruption, the culture of silence needs to be openly addressed, broken and re-set – and instead management needs to encourage and reward individuals who say something when it needs to be said.
This is especially relevant in relation to singling out unhealthy practices which would widely be regarded as inappropriate in workplace cultures where open, honest, upfront and productive collaboration between the existing “in” group and other workers, including newcomers, is welcomed and encouraged.

Introducing preventative measures

As there is a fine line between bullying and corrupt conduct, it is vital that companies wanting change introduce a number of preventative measures to deal with both problems. Studies have shown that workplaces which have positive measures, where there is open communication, workers work well together and respect each other, it is harder for a bully to ensconce themselves and intimidate others.
Also workplaces that encourage an “examining the foundations” approach by supporting employees to participate in systemic workplace improvements which are clearly defined and well understood by the staff, have often developed an effective means of preventing and detecting corruption.
So what else can be done? Employers can step up and put in place practices that work towards identifying and limiting, if not eliminating, corrupt conduct in the workplace.

Breaking down entrenched systems

Steps that would help breakdown entrenched illegal workplace systems include:
  • Knowing what exactly workplace corruption is;
  • Having appropriate and clear workplace complaint systems which are promoted or known to employees;
  • Ensuring that there are structured levels of accountability within the organisation so that no one person or group is made responsible for critical tasks;
  • Having sound internal reporting systems;
  • Putting in place complaint and grievance procedures that are correctly followed;
  • Having more than one person in charge of tasks where corruption can easily occur (such as procurement supplier) and make sure the management team is in the same building as its employees. If that is not possible, introduce a system of regular random visits and checks.
It is also worth noting that corruption is not a fixed thing, it is constantly changing and evolving. Therefore it is necessary to put systems in place that check workplace safeguards regularly and determine they are continuing to be effective. This is one of the only ways to try and eliminate “in” groups and a culture of silence.

Why training is important

Incorporating training in the workplace can be a powerful tool for change.The Certificate IV in Government Fraud Control course is a national qualification tailored to workplace investigators who want to work in government and employees who want to be promoted within their departments. The course covers areas such as:
  • identifying fraud and corruption;
  • carrying out risk assessments;
  • how to conduct investigations in such matters
While it is not often spoken about, worker corruption and dishonest conduct in the public sector is a common and widespread problem though it is hard to pinpoint, identify and report on. While many employees may see conduct they know is not legal or appropriate they may keep quiet for fear of retribution or being shut out by their co-workers.
Breaking that cycle is hard. Managers need to be trained to present themselves as role models to their staff. Regular training of all employees on bullying issues also reminds everyone about what conduct is acceptable, and reinforces the message that bullying is not tolerated.
The role of the whistle blower remains important. An employee wanting to expose corruption may end up being the last resort to trying to getting it stopped or changing the culture, especially if it is ingrained within the workplace.
While there is legislation in place in Australia that allows employees to report corruption via a whistleblowing hotline without fear of retaliation or reprisal, there are recent reports that suggest it is still very difficult for whistleblowers to come forward without there being a backlash.
Some politicians are now calling for stronger whistle blowing laws to encourage reporting of corporate corruption while ensuring that individuals are protected and not victimised for speaking out.  As the corrupt workplace culture is addressed, reviewed, disassembled and new, open and constructive systems put in place, workplace corruption can be stopped though it is unlikely to happen overnight.

Find out more about workplace corruption in this free Whitepaper download.

Corruption and misconduct are often hard to detect without the assistance of employees. A well supported confidential hotline is an essential component of your risk management strategy. Research how our hotline service can assist.

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