Employee complaints provide distinct problems for companies. How do you collect the complaints? Who should the complaints be filed with? How do you protect your employees from workplace retaliation? These are just some of the questions that need answering as you think about what kind of system your company should implement.

While there are many ways to do this, each with its strengths and weaknesses, one effective way is a confidential employee reporting system or complaint hotline.

How Does it Work?

To illustrate how a confidential employee reporting system works, let’s look at a hypothetical situation.

Jane and The Lunch Thief

Jane works for a company called Acme Widgets Inc. Jane likes her job and she is a good employee, so Acme Widgets likes Jane. However, she has a specific problem in the workplace. Someone keeps stealing her lunch from the employee fridge.

Now she could report this to her supervisor but she’s worried her supervisor might be involved. Jane doesn’t want her complaint to negatively impact her career. She also doesn’t want to get HR involved because she wants to remain anonymous. The last thing Jane wants to be known for is being the office tattletale. So what should she do?

Filing an Anonymous Report

Since Jane’s company set up a confidential employee reporting system, Jane can lodge her complaint by calling a 24-hour phone number set up to handle these complaints or go online to a confidential web form.

These services collect specific information like the type of report, the time, the location, and the parties involved.

And since these services are managed by a third party, Jane’s anonymity is ensured. All of her information like phone number, IP address, and call recordings are not available to the organization that pays for the service.

Notifying the Appropriate Parties

After she has lodged her complaint, the third-party vendor delivers the report information to the appropriate parties which can be HR, a compliance official, a legal team, or different personnel/departments based on the nature of the complaint.

Follow-up and Issue Resolution

This third party also assigns a unique case ID number to Jane’s complaint. This allows Acme Widgets and Jane to monitor the status of the complaint.

All of this makes Jane very happy. Her anonymity is intact and she knows her company takes her complaint seriously.

Acme Widgets is also happy. They are able to get in front of a serious workplace issue and resolve the matter before it gets out of hand. In the end, everybody wins. Everybody except, of course, the lunch thief.

Protection for Employees and Companies

While this slightly silly example is only hypothetical, it does have real-world analogs. Lunch theft might not be a pressing matter for compliance officers and HR departments. Issues like fraud, ethics violations, harassment, or gross incompetence are, however, pressing matters.

These are very serious issues for employees and companies. They are issues that companies should encourage employees to report. They are issues employees should feel comfortable reporting.

An anonymous reporting hotline allows employees to feel safe reporting workplace concerns. It also gives companies a clear way to efficiently handle complaints.