Even when you were just a kid, you had a strong sense of right from wrong. That’s why you became a hall monitor in middle school. And you took the job very seriously—writing up rule breakers for everything from running to littering the halls. You continued your mission to stop wrongdoers in high school like when you told the teacher about that kid who cheated on the final exams. In college, you also reported your dirty roommate to the resident assistant. But now that you have entered the workforce, you are struggling with your moral compass.
Deciding whether or not to report fraud, sexual harassment or someone stealing the company pens at work can be stressful. After all, broadcasting unethical or illegal behavior in the workplace could ruin your career or even your life, especially if it’s a senior executive. So what other options do you have? Here, you will learn five tips on how-to maintain your integrity by becoming a warrior whistleblower.
A Just Office
It’s a real surprise that you didn’t launch a career in law enforcement because like a super hero, you have always fought for justice. But things are different now - it’s no longer simply a matter of just “black and white”. In the workplace, it’s more about survival. By putting an individual’s or company’s future at risk, you will become a target and potentially sacrifice your own future. According to Fraud Magazine, over 70 percent of those who reported unethical or illegal behavior in the workplace have endured blatant acts of retaliation.
“Another six percent were suspended and five percent were transferred against their wishes,” said Patricia A. Patrick, who holds a doctorate in accounting and is an associate professor at the Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania, told Fraud Magazine. “The remaining 15 percent were given poor evaluations, demoted or harassed.”
Patrick - who reviewed over 300 whistleblowers’ lawsuits - couldn’t find any evidence showing why 60 percent were filed within the last decade. However, she offered some explanations that included false accusations, a surge of lawsuits or an increase in unethical behavior. So, are you still interested in fighting for justice?
Honor in the Workplace
If you decide to become a whistleblower, there may be some negative aftereffects. After all, when money, prestige, reputation and careers are involved, your self-righteousness will take a back seat. Over the years, however, some have boldly blown the whistle despite the costs. The most famous, says CBS’ 60 Minutes Anchor Scott Pelley, was the tobacco industry informant, Jeffrey Wigand who revealed the truth about cigarettes in the 1990s and inspired “the Insider” movie. Today the headlines all center around America’s Russian-turned outlaw Edward Snowden who had most recently gotten clearance to stay in the country until 2017, says the Washington Post.
“Starting August 1, 2014, Edward Snowden has received a residence permit for a three-year term,” Anatoly Kucherena, Snowden’s attorney said in a press conference. “He has to think about his security. He has a very modest life.”
Snowden’s self-imposed exile came in 2013 after the former NSA contracted disclosed confidential documents on the internet, says the Guardian. Snowden sacrificed a promising career earning $122,000 a year with an impressive benefits package because he did what he believed was the right thing. So what do you think: Is reporting the wrongdoer in your workplace worth the potential consequences?
If you are still determined to expose an individual or the entire company for unethical or illegal behavior, the following are five tips on how-to become a warrior whistleblower.
- Know Your Rights. July 30, 2014 was set by Senate as the day to appreciate National Whistleblowers. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Safety & Health Administration, there are over twenty laws on the books that protect workers who report workplace violations. And each state has protection laws. There also are plenty of resources online on how-to report unethical or illegal workplace behavior and protect yourself throughout the process. The National Whistleblowers Center, a non-profit organization, provides whistleblowers’ rights, an attorney referral service and a handbook, “ A Step-by-Step Guide to Doing What’s Right and Protecting Yourself.”
- Document the Wrongdoing. You will not be able to report fraud or abuse without concrete evidence. However, make sure you consult with an attorney first. One of the worst things you can do is to obtain or release evidence or documents illegally.
- Save Money. Blowing the whistle on an individual or company could cost you some big bucks, such as potential earnings and attorney fees. In addition, as in the case of Edward Snowden, you end up with relocation costs.
- Take a Look in the Mirror. The fact of the matter is that your entire life will be securitized after you blow the whistle. According to Fraud Magazine, it will be extremely difficult to file a claim if there is the slightest hint of impropriety within the workplace or even an employee’s personal life.
- Look for another Job. Despite the laws in place, chances arethe individual or company will find a way to make your life miserable.
Last, but certainly not least, decide whether or not reporting the unethical or illegal behavior is actually worth the costs. Public safety or health often tops the list by over 80 percent of whistleblowers’ lawsuits.