Whistleblowers = Good Employees

Look at the following list of personal attributes. Do they describe someone you would want to know? Someone you would want to employ?

  • Able to stick to his or her principles even under extreme pressure
  • Comfortable with a certain degree of non-conformity
  • Values justice over loyalty
  • Willing to make personal sacrifices for a greater good
  • Aware of the consequences of his or her actions

These are attributes of a “pretty good employee … someone who would do the right thing even when it is difficult,” according to a recent SCCE blog post.

They are also attributes of whistleblowers, says SCCE’s Adam Turteltaub in that blog post, citing a recent Washington Post story by Elizabeth Svoboda. To quote Turteltaub again, “whistleblowers are not greedy, traitorous rats, or out for themselves.”

Senator Chuck Grassley would agree. During an appreciation lunch held this year on National Whistleblower Appreciation Day (July 27) he said:

There is a lot of debate about what whistleblowers are, and what they are not.  I believe whistleblowers are patriots and heroes. A lot of them don’t ever intend to blow the whistle. They don’t ignore the law, or set out to make a lot of money or become famous. The vast majority will never be publicly known. They are just ordinary people like you and me, who see something wrong and want to fix it.

It is often a difficult path. Svoboda’s story cites a recent experimental study in which more than 90 percent of participants said they would disobey an experimenter’s request or blow the whistle if he or she was doing something immoral, but in fact less than 10% did so. “When people are put on the spot, conformity and fear of defying authority can overwhelm the impulse to do the right thing.”

Senator Grassley sees an additional cause for reluctance to speak out. He says whistleblowers are “treated like skunks at a picnic. Whistleblowers are harassed, fired, and blacklisted. Their careers, relationships, and health can all suffer as a result. However, their retaliators often go unpunished. This creates an environment of fear that discourages employees from raising problems.”

Turteltaub calls on compliance officers to continue encouraging employees to come forward internally, to make sure they are listened to, and to protect them from retaliation. And, he says, we need to remind [everyone] that there is a greater virtue in coming forward with an issue than in remaining silent.

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Grassley, Chuck. “Whistleblowers are Patriots and Heroes.” Press release, July 27, 2017. https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-whistleblowers-are-patriots-and-heroes

Svoboda, Elizabeth. “What Makes Whistleblowers Speak Out While Others Stay Silent About Wrongdoing.” Washington Post (online), July 13, 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2017/07/13/what-makes-whistleblowers-speak-out/?tid=ss_tw&utm_term=.9f432571dd62

Turteltaub, Adam. “The Ideal Employee.” The Compliance & Ethics Blog, July 24, 2017. http://complianceandethics.org/the-ideal-employee/