Here’s a Big Question Most of Us Grapple With: Should We Blow the Whistle?
Do we remain silent? Do we report?
It’s almost one of those ‘tear your hair out’ feelings when you’re faced with the knowledge of someone you know participating in wrongdoing… you know it’s wrong… but you’re afraid of ‘stirring the pot’ so to speak.
Well, many people were in a position to inform authorities about two highly dangerous men who did indeed resort to murder.
Martin Rouleau participated in a hit-and-run that killed a Canadian soldier and injured another. Mr Rouleau was on a list of 90 Canadians being monitored for potential terrorist activity, yet was free amongst us.
Michael Zehaf-Bibeau, a known drug addict with an explosive temper who was kicked out of a Burnaby mosque for aggressive behavior, and who admired the Taliban, shot and killed a Canadian soldier before storming Parliament in Ottawa.
These are just two examples of ‘wrongdoing’ that could have been prevented had more people tried to alert authorities and turn them in.
But what society struggles with is the label “snitch”, “fink” and “rat”.
Remember the Unabomber? He planted and mailed bombs to people involved in modern technology, killing many of his victims. It was his own brother who blew the whistle on him. Yet we do not call him a snitch.
Now granted, it’s hard to know who living amongst us is capable of murder, vs. just looking for attention, so the question of when to blow the whistle is hard to answer in that capacity.
But what plagues average citizens on whether or not to report wrongdoing, are the same thoughts that plaque employees, also struggling with blowing the whistle in the workplace.
Here’s what many employees (and society) struggle with:
The image of informants is people running around rampant informing authorities on basically anything. We grew up in our elementary schools with our teachers telling us not to be ‘tattletales’ to trivial complaints.
Solution: in the workplace, that’s the whole point of an ethics reporting platform. Any complaint can be reported internally (anonymously or not), investigated, and resolved. That ‘trivial’ complaint could end up cracking open an existing threat that’s on the verge of destroying the business.
In the community, it’s not unreasonable to try to solve problems within community groups first, before bringing in authorities.
True: and the same applies for the workplace. Employing a third-party ethics reporting hotline where reports of wrongdoing can be handled internally, all while keeping the reporter anonymous, often can be investigated and resolved internally without bringing in outside parties that could bring negative attention to the organization. Of course, if a ‘wrongdoing’ is severe enough that it requires the authorities, then that’s when it gets handed over.
We fear repercussion. We tend do clam up for fear of being placed in danger, or fired from the job.
Solution: again in the workplace, that’s where the third-party ethics reporting system works well. If an organization has taken the time to implement such a program, then they are serious about its use, and about learning of wrongdoing. If you know of a co-worker who’s cooking the books, the organization needs to know about it. Most frauds go unreported for months… that costs businesses!
Those who blow the whistle are individuals who want to make a difference, because they care about their employer and about society.
Former CIA counter-intelligence trainer Edward Snowden is a prime example. His whistleblowing exposed massive levels of secret US government surveillance. Some consider him a hero, others dismiss him as a “traitor.’
Another example of where the knowledge people had could have made a difference is in the 1985 Air India bombing. A key reason prosecutors failed to convict those behind the bombing, which killed 329 people – mostly Canadians – was the lack of informants among community.
We need to start embracing whistleblowers as those who want to make differences that positively affect us all. Months ago we posted about how whistleblowing isn’t just for businesses. We wrote about a war hero’s home being burgled and his war medals being stolen. Somebody somewhere knew about this crime, and who committed it.
Whether within society or in the organization, it’s important to promote a speak up culture. We’ve seen what can happen when we don’t. Download a copy of our eBook about creating a whistleblower speak up culture. It doesn’t matter how you say it, it means the same thing.