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Hotline or helpline: Is there a difference?

Joseph Agins (jxa101@shsu.edu) is the Institutional Compliance Officer for Sam Houston State University in Houston, Texas, USA.

Although assuming can be dangerous, I will assume everyone reading this has an anonymous reporting “hotline” or “helpline” program in their organization. So, which do you have? Many consider the two interchangeable. In fact, the SCCE’s Compliance Dictionary defines Hotlines/Helplines together as: “a common reporting system, administered in-house or by outside consultants, giving anonymous telephone access to employees seeking to report possible instances of wrongdoing.” So, are they the same?

I do not disagree with the aforementioned definition, because both program types contain the defined attributes. However, I feel there are distinct differences, and depending on how you want your program to perform, be perceived by employees, and support your organizational culture, said differences can matter.

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