What if you discovered that your company's products were leaking dangerous chemicals into the environment? Top managers knew it was happening, but they were doing nothing to stop it. Would you tell the police or the media to make the issue public?
Here's another scenario: What if you found out that your company's accountants were changing numbers so that it looked as if the organization was doing better than it really was? And what if you discovered that the CEO and other top managers had asked for this? Would you report them, or keep quiet?
Unfortunately, things like this really can happen, and some people are faced with real-life decisions just like these at some point in their careers. Your involvement may start with accidentally discovering something in paperwork, or perhaps hearing a conversation between other people. When it happens, however, you have a difficult choice to make: do you "stay loyal" to the company, stay silent, and stay employed – or do you report the misconduct, and face harassment or firing?
In this article, we'll cover the main aspects of whistleblowing: what it is, and what you need to think about in connection with it. Plus, we'll offer tips on protecting yourself if you have to report a wrongdoing at your company (although you may not be able to protect yourself completely).
Whistleblowing is the act of reporting wrongdoing in an organization to the appropriate authorities. This wrongdoing is a breach of the law, or of some rule of regulation, and is typically systemic – something that is being done with the knowledge and acceptance of responsible, influential people within the organization.
Whistleblowing happens when a worker learns of this illegal activity, and then decides to stop it by "blowing the whistle" on the misconduct to alert others. A few examples of wrongdoings that could lead to whistleblowing are food contamination, violations of workplace safety, fraud, or distribution of defective products that could impact public health or safety.
If you discover something like this in your organization, then you have a tough path ahead of you, and working out what to do isn't easy. Take yourself through the following process:
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