A whistle blower is an individual who informs the public or an authority about alleged misconduct within the workplace. Whistle blowing can occur within the context of the government, a public organisation or a company; alleged misconduct can include violations of the law, regulations, threats to the public interest and corruption. While whistle blowing is an important method of self-regulation, there are certain risks associated with being a whistle blower.
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Diminishes Trust in the Workplace
Reporting the misconduct of your fellow employees may be good for enforcement of company policy, but it can also seriously diminish trust between you and the rest of the workplace. Simply put, nobody likes a tattletale. Even if the person being reported was indeed at fault, other employees may feel they cannot trust you with personal information and they may keep you at a distance.
Can Negatively Affect Your Career
Whistle blowing can incite a variety of hostile responses from upper management, depending on the severity of the allegations being brought to light. As whistle blowing essentially bypasses the chain of command, those being circumvented -- for instance, your direct superior -- can feel slighted or humiliated. Say, for instance, that you are bringing a complaint about the conduct of your manager to the district manager. If the district manager -- who may see the allegations as either insignificant or unverifiable -- takes no action, this can result in a rift between you and your manager. Because of this rift, you may be passed up for promotion or marginalised within the department.
Risk to Personal Safety
Though it is rare, whistle blowers can face risks to their personal safety. Karen Silkwood, for example, was an employee at the now defunct Kerr-McGee nuclear power plant and intended to bring serious safety allegations to light. She died mysteriously in a car crash in 1974 after receiving numerous death threats. The documents she intended to use as proof against Kerr-McGee were not found in the wreckage but an autopsy revealed she had been exposed to lethal doses of radiation and was possibly drugged.
Can Destroy the Company
Bringing serious cases of misconduct or illegal actions to light may be the ethical thing to do from a corporate social responsibility perspective, but it can also result in significant collateral damage. For instance, if the company you are whistle blowing against closes doors or at least loses business as a result, the employees of that firm can suddenly be laid off or can lose their benefits. These consequences should be considered when making the decision to blow the whistle.
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