We often get questions about false whistleblower reports. In this blog post we discuss whether those fears are founded.
It is quite common that organizations expect they will start receiving an overwhelming number of reports, including abusive ones, once the whistleblowing channels are opened.
Hence, they question whether they will be able to process them all and how this will affect their day-to-day operations.
In practice such concerns have not been substantiated.
Short answer? Probably not. Blowing a whistle is never easy, even when reporting channels and protection procedures are in place.
Similarly to filing a false police report, the possible negative impacts of even anonymously “whistleblowing” outweigh the potential benefits in most cases.
The stress and in some cases also public exposure related to their whistleblowing also take a huge psychological and physical toll. All this is further aggravated in societies where whistleblowing is generally (due to historical or other reasons) negatively perceived as a form of malicious denunciation. All they usually gain is some personal satisfaction from “doing the right thing”, while their personal risks are enormous. In this regard they may be subjected to retaliation (including loss of employment) and become generally unemployable in the industry or even broader.
The research indicates that even since the passage of the EU Whistleblower Directive, there have been actually relatively few reports of wrongdoing. A study by Fachhochschule Graubünden and EQS Group shows that more than 50% of companies from France, UK and Switzerland received no reports in the observed year (2020), while the share of such companies in Germany stands a bit lower with 40%. In average the companies received 34 reports in the observed period, however, the amount of received reports was strongly correlated with the number of company employees. SMEs received in average 6 reports, while companies employing more than 250 workers received 46 reports in average. Furthermore, the study also reports that only a half of the received reports were considered relevant and with substance relating to a compliance issue. The share of abusive reports was between 5 to 10%, depending on the country.
The Navex Global “Regional Whistleblowing Hotline Benchmark Report 2021” provides median values instead of averages in order to remove the impact of outliers that might skew the overall reporting data.According to the said report the median report volume for Europe was 5 reports per 1000 employees and 15 reports per 1000 employees for North America. Most of the reports (around 60%) relate to HR, diversity and workplace respect topics, while business integrity issues are reported in about a quarter of reports and misuse and misappropriation of corporate assets are reported in less than 10% of reports.
However, the above mentioned Navex Global report is taking into consideration only the organizations that received 10 or more reports in 2020. The information on how many organizations with whistleblowing channels received less than 10 reports or even 0 reports is not provided.
The fear of being overwhelmed with reports once a whistleblowing channel is opened is unfounded. Such is also my experience with setting up whistleblowing channels for numerous organizations. None of them experienced the dreaded flood of reports, let alone abusive ones. If anything, whistleblowing needs to be constantly and consistently promoted and protected in order to tilt the above-described balance between costs and benefits for a whistleblower. “
The referred sources:
 Prof. Dr. Christian Hauser, Jeanine Bretti-Rainalter, Helene Blumer: Whistleblowing Report 2021; FH Graubünden Verlag, Chur 2021; www.fhgr.ch/whistleblowingreport
 Carrie Penman, Ian Painter, Andrew Burt: Regional Whistleblowing Hotline Benchmark Report 2021; Navex Global Inc., 2021
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