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That Is The Question…
Many people work in companies where they witness illegal and/or unethical behaviour. Sometimes that kind of behaviour does not result in serious consequences for the employees or those connected with the company – whether they are partners, consumers, etc. However, sometimes this implies lapses or actions potentially generating severe consequences.
It is estimated that only 30% of employees who discover something illegal or a potential danger in company’s operations bring it to a responsible person in the company or to the public. Other 70% opt for silence due to the lack of courage and potential ramifications of their own actions, or due to the lack of empathy or ethics.
Those who opt for going public – either by warning the public or the responsible persons – are often called ‘whistle blowers’. They are usually good and honest workers, altruistic persons, respected and appreciated by their colleagues. These characteristics make them best candidates for whistle blowers. Their consciousness does not let them stay silent about irregularities and unethical behaviour potentially harmful for the company or the community. Their main motif is the desire to stop such behaviour and prevent it from escalating.
The reactions of colleagues and superiors of the whistle blowers are ambivalent. On one hand, we admire their courage and ethics for speaking out about irregularities. On the other hand, we feel certain resentment for their upsetting the collective and ‘treason’ of a sort. For many the loyalty to their own group is more important than following moral principles, laws or general well-being.
Majority of employees do not want to face the problems the whistle blowers point to. Employees on lower levels are afraid of consequences if they support the whistle blower (getting fired, salary reduction, mobbing, etc). With higher level positions (managers, executives, board…) there is a constant tendency to opposing changes, covering up mistakes and the fear about consequences.
Attempts are made to neutralize, scare, isolate from other colleagues and generally detach whistle blowers from information and resources. Often whistle blowers are defamed and their credits and reputation destroyed. Their expertise, qualifications, mental health and honesty are questioned.
People who decide to speak out go through a nightmare. Many become victims of depression and anxiety, become ill and feel lonely and helpless. With their self-confidence devastated, they lose faith in people and justice. Many face financial losses or break-downs. Often their families are not supportive and their family relations deteriorate.
Nevertheless, even 90% of whistle blowers say that despite all the hardships they would do it again. Way to go!
What would you do if you discovered or witnessed irregularities in the company you worked at? What would you do if you had a whistle blower in your company?
Think about it…
“Upset Businessman” - Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
“Young Handsome Businessman Talking At The Cell Phone” - Image courtesy of David Castillo Dominici / FreeDigitalPhotos.net