Around 40% of employees lack confidence that their reported concerns would be thoroughly investigated and addressed fairly, finds a new survey.
The 2023 Workplace Harassment & Misconduct Insights report by HR Acuity, revealed that employees actually fear retaliation for reporting workplace concerns. The results reinforce how important it is for employees to not only understand the value of reporting but also trust the process.
The survey indicated that employees who experienced or witnessed negative workplace behaviours including bullying, sexual harassment, and discrimination were more likely to leave their jobs. In fact, 30% of affected employees no longer work for their organisations, compared to only 11% of those who had not experienced or observed such issues.
In 2023, half of the employees surveyed experienced or witnessed incidents of workplace harassment or misconduct, but only 58% of these incidents were reported, a decrease from 64% in 2019. The survey highlighted various reasons for underreporting, including discomfort, skepticism about the handling of issues, concerns about not being taken seriously and fears of retaliation.
The survey also signals the need for HR departments to prepare for unique experiences across multiple segments of the workforce. The results identified distinct challenges faced by independent contractors and transgender employees. Independent contractors reported a higher rate of issues, with a significant number occurring outside of office locations. These contractors were less likely to report issues to their managers (39%) and more likely to utilise anonymous hotlines for reporting.
On the other hand, transgender employees were the most affected group, with 85% having experienced or witnessed an issue. They expressed less confidence and awareness in processes for reporting and addressing concerns, often experiencing incidents outside of the office and preferring anonymous or non-anonymous reporting methods.
“The survey results indicate that how organisations respond to workplace harassment and bad behavior matters as much as trying to prevent it. When issues are mishandled or unresolved, culture becomes toxic, turnover increases and referrals plummet,” said Deb Muller, CEO of HR Acuity.
“Clear communication, improved investigation processes, and real support for anonymous reporting can help rebuild employee trust. With more transparency around investigations, organisations can foster an inclusive and safe environment that bolsters employee confidence, improves reporting and helps teams proactively address workplace harassment and misconduct.”