Article: The Counsellor: Blow the whistle on unethical practices

C-Suite

The Counsellor: Blow the whistle on unethical practices

Whenever you see unethical practices in the corporation, it is always advisable to blow the whistle and bring it to the management's notice. But raising issues only on the basis of your instincts is not advisable. You must have some evidence and be willing to participate in the investigation process
The Counsellor: Blow the whistle on unethical practices

Whenever you see unethical practices in the corporation, it is always advisable to blow the whistle and bring it to the management’s notice. But raising issues only on the basis of your instincts is not advisable. You must have some evidence and be willing to participate in the investigation process

Our Expert, Vivek Paranjpe, Consultant & Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries

Our company provides child care to its employees at Rs. 5000 per month. However, at the recent HR audit we were shocked to realize that the Rs.5000 per month charge that we had to deduct from the employees’ salary had not been done for some 200 employees over the past 2.5 years. Our CEO is obviously furious and wants HR to act promptly to recover the money from the employees at the earliest. While no employee ever brought this up, I know that it is equally HR’s responsibility to have ensured such a blunder did not occur. Many of the employees have even left the organization and I have only joined recently. Personally I feel it would be unfair to suddenly ask employees to pay up such a huge amount while I understand my CEOs demand. What should I do, and who should take the blame?

I am unable to understand what kind of child care benefit is offered by your corporation that demands such a huge deduction of Rs. 5000 per month. In addition to such a deduction I am sure there are other deductions for Provident Fund and other benefits. Looking at such a large monthly deduction only on one count, I will like to believe that this group is a group of very well paid employees.
I am wondering if the management for some reasons forgot to make such deductions. How is it that these employees, from whose salary such large deductions should have happened, did not bring it to the management’s notice? I guess the employees are equally responsible. While it is necessary to fix the blame, it is more important to ensure existence of robust processes with checks and balances to ensure smooth administration and non repetition of similar mistakes.
Looks like now these employees owe close to 1.5 lakhs each to the company for that period of 2.5 years. It is difficult to recover such big amount from the monthly salary. There are several ways of dealing with this - just adjust this money against future bonuses or incentives or treat the amount as loan and recover the same over longer reasonable period of time. You need to work out a reasonable and mutually acceptable mechanism for recovery. As far as ex-employees are concerned the recovery will be a challenge, you need to work with these people one-on-one and recover what is possible.

I work for a growing advertizing firm. A lady colleague in my office recently confided in me about certain advances being made to her by a senior colleague and she is distraught. While she is hassled and uncomfortable with the situation, she is not willing to make a formal complaint fearing it might affect her career prospects either in the present organization or in any other. Also the antagonist is one of our high performers and I know the management would not be willing to take any blind action against him. We do not have a structured sexual harassment body to handle such cases but I feel she needs to be helped. Should I take the matter to the senior management?

I am glad that this lady colleague shared this unfortunate information with you. This indicates that she has confidence in you. Now it is your responsibility to advise her appropriately. If the sexual harassment cases are not nipped in the bud, they can take ugly turns. You need to reassure her that making a formal complaint is always a good idea and also her responsibility. Today this top performing senior colleague has made advances at her, tomorrow if unchecked, he could harass other women. If these other women are not strong enough to lodge a formal complaint or they do not have friends like you to give them right advice, some may succumb to the pressure which is highly undesirable.
You have stated that the “antagonist is one of our high performers and I know the management would not be willing to take any blind action against him”. It is never appropriate to take any action blindly without proper investigation, but to make an assumption that management will not do anything just because he is a good performer is also not right. If this woman colleague of yours lodges a formal complaint to the management, the management will have to undertake proper investigation and take appropriate disciplinary action against the culprit if the complaint is well founded. There are set mechanisms to deal with such cases, which I am sure, your management will follow.
In fear of career being adversely affected, if women stop making complaints against sexual harassment cases, we will create corporations where women cannot work in peace. In today’s world where we have strong NGOs, protective legal mechanisms and supportive colleagues like you, this lady colleague of yours should boldly lodge the complaint and ensure proper investigation and right actions are undertaken. I am sure that any reasonable management that is ethical and wants to ensure equal opportunities and fair work place practices will do all the right things.
 

I am a recruitment manager of a growing IT company. I smell foul play in the recent activities of one of our recruitment head and suspect that he is taking money for certain middle and senior management appointments in the company. While I do not have any evidence against this, my instincts are very strong and I am uncomfortable not doing anything about such unethical practices. Should I blow the whistle and take it to his boss?

Whenever you see unethical practices in the corporation, it is always advisable to blow the whistle and bring it to the management’s notice. While raising issues of this nature is certainly your responsibility, you have to also ensure that you need to take responsibility and ensure that the issues raised are well -founded. Raising issues only on the basis of your instincts is not advisable. You must have some evidence and be willing to participate in the investigation process.
If you believe that one of the recruitment head is taking money, and you have no evidence, it will not be right to blow the whistle. It will be a good idea to just share your instincts with the head of HR and tell him/ her why you suspect the possibility of foul play. Let the management determine how they will like to undertake the investigation and take the matter forward. It is unethical to come to any conclusion without any evidence and merely based on suspicion. It will jeopardize your credibility in the system and make you look rather silly and immature if you do not have any direct or circumstantial evidence. So gather some evidence, do your home work and support your instincts with some facts and data. This way you will gain respect from your peers, superiors and subordinates.


Vivek is a Senior HR professional with over 35 years of experience, ranging several leadership positions, in India and abroad. He leads his consulting practice since 2003 and presently works as a Strategic HR Advisor to Reliance Industries, and is also an independent Director on the Board of Motilal Oswal Financial Services Ltd. Prior to this he was based at Singapore for several years where he was Director HR - Operations at Hewlett Packard for the Asia Pacific Region.
Allow Vivek to clear your career and professional dilemmas by writing to us at ask@peoplematters.in
 

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