"Whistle Blowing" In "Survival Tips for Whistleblowers", a handbook printed under the auspices of the federal Government Accountability Project (GAP), whistleblowing is defined as "disclosing information that an employee reasonably believes is evidence of illegality, gross waste, gross mismanagement, abuse of power, or substantial and specific danger to public health or safety."Imagine you have recently been hired by a Fortune 500 company to work in the accounting department. While working late one night, you overhear two senior vice presidents talking loudly and drinking in one of the executive's offices. They are telling sexist and racist jokes, making obscene and ugly remarks about other employees and generally behaving like two adolescents on a binge. What would you do?Imagine you are a safety engineer at a nuclear disposal site and a proposal is about to be implemented to move some highly radioactive material. You are aware of some technicalities that make this move extremely dangerous both to the public and the environment. You have voiced these concerns to your superiors and they are being dismissed as "alarmist" views. What do you do?Imagine you are a teacher in a vocational education program at a local junior college You find out through the "grapevine" that the coordinator of the program is turning in fraudulent time cards for himself for teaching classes he did not teach and has managed to steal almost $20,000 thus far. In addition, you are provided with copies of these fraudulent documents by a fellow teacher who has a "friend" in the office where the records are kept. What would you do?Every day, thousands of Americans witness unethical behavior on the job. Sometimes these occurrences simply offend, although deeply, other times humans and ecosystems are in great danger, and sometimes serious illegal activities come to light. The decision to blow the whistle is an intensely personal one and motives run the gamut from the most altruistic to the most self serving of the vengeful, disgruntled employee.In our culture mixed messages about what is right are constantly sent and are difficult to decipher. On the one hand we denigrate the prying busybodies, the cynical troublemakers and naysayers, the squealers and tattletales. At the same time we also hold in contempt and condemn just as strongly the "see no evil, hear no evil" attitude of those who don't want to get involved and look the other way claiming to see nothing when something wrong happens. We simultaneously fight for the "individual's right to privacy" and the "public's right to know."
Before you blow the whistle make sure you understand the personal and professional implications and potential risks you will encounter. Make no mistake, whistleblowers pay an enormous personal and professional price for their actions. Academic studies confirm that over 90% of all whistleblowers report subsequent retaliation and it is not uncommon for whistleblowers to be harassed, socially ostracized, demoted, or even fired. Your best friend and fellow employees may turn against you even if your actions are in their best interests. Inadequate legal protection is also a factor. All too often workers find out too late that rights exist on paper only when facing an unsympathetic judge. The emotional, mental, financial and professional price paid is enormous.Most employees remain silent when they witness misconduct, wrongdoing, or even egregious illegal activity. To what extent is the silent employee in complicity and if they have evidence of illegal or dangerous activities and do not speak out should they bear some of the guilt? Might they even be held criminally liable? Whistleblowing is a thorny ethical question and deep soul searching is a prerequisite for survival. A set of questions from the GAP handbook may help potential whistleblowers decide whether or not to proceed. + Is the wrongdoing at issue substantial enough to warrant the risks of reprisal and the investment of human and financial resources to expose it?+ Are your allegations reasonable and can they be proven?+ Can you make a difference in resolving the wrongdoing if you blow the whistle, or will you be beating your head against the bureaucratic wall? Before blowing the whistle one must realize that although it can be one of the most spiritually enriching experiences of your life to do the right thing and you may save lives or billions of dollars, you should be informed, face, and accept the heavy risks that come with trying to expose or challenge an established power structure before you start to suffer the consequences.So I'll ask again. What would you do?