EthicsPoint is Only One of Many Resources for Reporting Employee Concerns
Since last summer, many employees have taken to EthicsPoint — a third-party system that allows the Tech community to anonymously file complaints of ethics violations — to report concerns of alleged fraud, waste, or misconduct. As a result, many employees now use the system to report all manner of suspect behavior, including issues that may be better addressed in other ways.
The Institute, said Aisha Oliver-Staley, interim vice president for Ethics, Compliance, and Legal Affairs, deemed it critically important to encourage employees to use the system to log their complaints following recent ethical lapses — but not every concern or complaint rises to the level of an EthicsPoint filing.
“We issued a directive to put everything into EthicsPoint,” Oliver-Staley said. “Now that we have seen what is coming in, we realize that we may have swung the pendulum too far, so we want to reset based on a better understanding of employee concerns and to facilitate a more efficient review of these concerns.”
Phil Hurd, director of Internal Auditing, said complaints filed in EthicsPoint run the gamut from suspicion of fraud to frustration about administrative documents that were not delivered in a timely manner. At Tech, EthicsPoint reports are reviewed and triaged by a team of members from Georgia Tech Human Resources; Internal Auditing; and Ethics, Compliance, and Legal Affairs. The University System of Georgia also receives notification of each complaint filed in EthicsPoint.
“We look at everything that comes into EthicsPoint,” Hurd said. “We want to avoid delaying cases involving fraud, waste, or misconduct while we’re investigating management or administrative issues that could be resolved more efficiently at the unit level.”
Kim Harrington, associate vice president for Human Resources, said the key is communication.
“We encourage employees to talk through employment issues and concerns with their manager first, and work with their local HR support as an initial step,” said Harrington. “It is important for managers to be open to discussing these important issues with their employees.”
Harrington further suggests that employees give their management team an opportunity to address employment and other issues not associated with ethics and/or fraud before using EthicsPoint. If that doesn’t work, then the Office of Human Resources is another option, she said.
“Have a conversation with an HR representative or with the HR business partners embedded in the units. If the conversation needs to be facilitated, it can be handled within the unit with the support of HR,” Harrington said. “Working with the staff ombuds is another viable path. If you have exhausted all of those options and still believe there is an unethical or fraudulent situation, then go to EthicsPoint.”
The Ombuds Program at Georgia Tech is a confidential, neutral, informal, and independent conflict resolution and management resource. It is available to assist any member of the Tech community seeking assistance.
“We encourage these conversations to continue and are here to support that at the unit level and beyond to ensure effective resolution of complex workplace issues and concerns,” Harrington said, emphasizing the importance of not minimizing employees’ distress. Rather, she said, the new tactic is an effort to streamline how Tech handles concerns that cross a spectrum of issues.
Oliver-Staley said that some employees incorrectly assume that filing a complaint is the only way to communicate with the ethics office.
“EthicsPoint is not the only way to access the ethics office,” Oliver-Staley said. “You can call us and set up an appointment. We can discuss your concerns and make a decision together before you take action.”
Examples of Concerns:
- Miscommunication between supervisors, coworkers, employees.
- Interpersonal, intercultural, and group conflicts.
- Confusion around policies and/or procedures.
- Perceived ethical dilemmas.
- Perceived unfair treatment or bullying.
- Managerial effectiveness.