Listening to the Employees who Stay Silent

May 8, 2023

Why don’t people speak up when bad things happen at work?

A study found that 39% of people who experienced racism in the workplace did not speak up because they feared negative repercussions. Another found that 45% of people did not report workplace misconduct because they worried that their colleagues would not support them.

Think of every friend, family member and colleague who has complained to you about these issues. Likely, the vast majority of them have not spoken to someone in HR about their concerns. You may have even advised them against doing so.

And for good reason. Talking to someone in HR or a workplace investigator can be an uncomfortable experience. Investigations into formal complaints are also time consuming; they often take several months to complete. The results are impossible to predict and, worst of all, the fear that speaking up will leave an indelible mark on your reputation and career is unavoidable.

Employees need a way to report concerns as they arise and without the consequences that come with speaking to HR. And Employers need to hear them.

What’s the employer’s typical approach to this problem? An anonymous complaint system!

But anonymous complainant systems are not so anonymous. Since employees often submit “anonymous” complaints that name the employee’s manager or a colleague on their small team, the complaint often triggers an investigation - and that very same “anonymous” employee may be required to participate in the investigation as a potential witness.

Once they participate, they may not be able to remain anonymous. They also have no control over the consequences of the investigation. Maybe the person that they complained about gets fired - even if that’s not what they even wanted in the first place.

Unlike other anonymous complaint service providers, Canary helps employees on a human-to-human level. Employees can have a totally off-the-record conversation with a Canary Advisor who knows their workplace’s policies and can help them figure out a way to address their concerns that makes sense for them. It could include sending some information to their employer about their concerns, giving them strategies to resolve the problem on their own or explaining the process of making a formal complaint. These kinds of conversations help employees feel more secure, informed and resilient when it comes to workplace conflict and misconduct.

While there will always be a time and place for formal complaints and investigations, they should not be the only ways to address misconduct at work. Canary lets employees who would otherwise stay silent get support, and send an early warning signal so employers can address their concerns - before it’s too late.