Nobody in the Netherlands will have missed the news storm about The Voice. What can we learn from this? Is it sufficient to appoint confidential advisors? And is having a separate procedure for unwanted behaviour helpful?

Almost nobody in the Netherlands will have missed this: The television show The Voice of Holland has been discredited after accusations of sexual misconduct. The show has since been stopped. One of the accused individuals has admitted to have crossed the line. The music of two artists involved will not be played on the radio for now. A complaint has been filed with the public prosecutor’s office. The media has covered this at length and with a lot of detail, we only want to add a few things.

This incident underlines the importance of an open and safe speak-up culture in organisations, where signals get picked up early on and independent investigations get carried out, after which adequate measures are taken. That could have prevented a lot of damage here too. Appointing a confidential advisor is not enough, there should also be reporting channels with a coordinator who can start an independent investigation.
Even more important is the behaviour of the leadership. They have to initiate the conversation on undesired behaviour and create a safe environment where this conversation is welcomed. The commotion around The Voice of Holland is a good reason to start this discussion now.

Also of great importance is accountable leadership and leaders that know how to deal with this type of misconduct. The reporting channels should be a last resort, if all other methods fail.

A lot of Dutch organisations offer separated procedures for reporting unwanted behaviour and for reporting other integrity problems. We advise our clients to launch one speak-up procedure and one reporting channel. This makes it easier to find the correct channel. Behind the central reporting desk, cases can be divided between a complaints committee (e.g. for sexual misconduct) and an integrity committee.
It is however beneficial if one person can see the complete picture. In our experience bad incidents seldom comes alone. Fraud and corruption can go hand in hand with intimidation. Unwanted behaviour often shows up in a culture where employees think they can get away with unethical behaviour. Sometimes it happens that the essence of the case suddenly changes, e.g. from a harassment case to a fraud case. This should of course not hinder the progress of the investigation.

The first step is of course that everyone is encouraged to start the conversation in a safe environment. In order to achieve this, it should be clear where and how people can start the conversation. For example, with the management, with a confidential advisor and/or through a reporting channel.

In our next article we will give five reasons for establishing a speak-up culture.