Whistleblower, a hero to some and a villain to others. A whistleblower stands on two diametrical ends of the spectrum and more often than not walks the lonely path of a no man’s land.
Until the Enron saga unfolded, whistleblowing always had an uncomplimentary slant. Whistleblowers themselves stigmatized as disloyal employees who create trouble for their employers. Only now are perceptions beginning to change, as whistleblowing is now viewed as an accountability and risk management tool that can be used to safeguard the interest of the company and the public.
A whistleblower’s act is seen like a betrayal of trust akin to biting the hand that feeds. Experience has shown that whistleblower find themselves isolated from their colleagues and management, sacked, demoted, sued or otherwise victimized, usually for breach of confidence or for defamation. The. The wondrous and courages acts of the whistleblower help unearth the Pandora’s box, cobwebs hidden in the cupboards, expose corruption, lay open debauchery and other transgressions which otherwise would remain hidden from the public eye.
A whistleblower is defined as someone who discloses significant acts of corruption, waste, fraud, mismanagement or abuse of authority in contravention of the Country’s laws or regulations in either the public or private sector. It up holds moral, ethical practices and professionalism.
To blow a whistle, undoubtedly, requires extraordinary courage. The whistleblowers dilemma is two-fold:
- Risks job and career prospects
- Engaging in what most people would deem slanderous and damaging activities.
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The truth is, bribery, the bending of safety rules and other unlawful acts are hard to detect without the help of whistleblowers. It is necessary to protect those providing confidential information. Few will share such information when the risk of being exposed is high. Often the whistleblowers are painted to be the bad guy.
The law and a change of mindset are required to encourage whistleblowing but it is a difficult task. The whistleblower will naturally face a dilemma between acting in the public interest and a sense of loyalty to management and colleagues. It is crucial that this sense of loyalty and respect for authority do not over shadow the more basic values of what is right and wrong. We must reinforce acceptance that loyalty to employees stop when public harm becomes an issue.
Whistleblowers are responsible people who have the courage to do as their conscience dictates. Despite facing huge risks of reprisal and sometimes endangering their lives and their families, they have the fortitude and strength to stand up against the transgressions and their perpetrators.
Whistling is easy but blowing the whistle in business is not that easy. It requires extraordinary courage and the recriminations that follow such selfless acts can sometimes bring down lesser mortals.
Whistleblowers can play an important role in the monitoring. The presence of whistleblowers bring about a credible threat of discovery and prosecution to those who are guilty of crime, civil offences, miscarriage of justice, danger to health and safety or the environment, and the cover up of any those.
A healthy culture of whistleblowing is an essential building block of civil society. But whistleblowers often face an uphill, seemingly insurmountable task, in bringing their concerns to public light. The downside is that there are risks too – losing your job, unresponsive agencies who may not protect you, the emotional and mental cost to you and your family, friends may ostracize you,, and of course, retaliation.
Whistleblowing carries serious repercussions and you must be mentally strong to withstand the on-slaught of recrimination. Tips on deciding whether to whistleblower:
1. Remaining strong
- Consider seeing a lawyer.
- Learn about protection against retaliation
- Weight the risks
2. Staying safe
- Trusting selected others
- Don’t take unnecessary risks
- Be careful who to trust and keep the number small
- Get all the evidence you can
- Keep a log in a bound book, ensuring no pages can be added or removed.
- Document everything applicable and regularly
- Keep it in a safe place
- Get copies it everything incriminating
- Weight of evidence and totality of the record will matter a great deal.
3. Thinking a head
- Prepare an ‘escape plan’ should you need to get out of the situation quickly and safely
- Remove all but essential material from your office
- Mentally practice escaping
4. Seizing the initiative
- Choose the time and place to announce your position
- If resigning, include a brief letter generally describing your reasons
- Delivering it in person along with unbiased witness
5. Maintaining high ground
- Don’t depreciate your position and cause by acting immaturely
- Avoid screaming and petty behavior.
Whistleblowers are courages people who act to protect others. Whistleblowing in essence, comes down to courage to have or have not.
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