Whistleblowing

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Definition: Whistleblowing occurs when a member of an organization goes outside of the normal lines of authority in order to accuse the organization (or key personnel) of wrongdoing. On the face of it, whistleblowing involves disloyalty — however well-meaning — to one’s institution. So it requires justification. When is whistleblowing justified?

Serious harm is involved; The whistleblower has already expressed his or her concerns to his/her immediate superior; The whistleblower has exhausted other channels within the organization; De George further suggested that blowing the whistle might be not merely justified, but morally required, if 2 additional criteria are met: The whistleblower has convincing, documented evidence; The whistleblower has good reason to believe that going public will actually bring about change, and thereby prevent serious harm. ) Talk to supervisor 2) Talk to family members (this is important because the stress placed on those who blow the whistle is tremendous and can have a severe impact on family life) 3) Take it to the next level 4) Contact company ethics officer or ombudsman 5) Consider taking it outside your chain of command 6) Go outside the company 7) Leave the company

It’s important to tell the family because they are the people you trust the most and because whistle blowing may not affect only you but also your family ie. Being fired or harassed and it is important the family is behind you if you are going to proceed. The Ethics of Whistleblowing In their analyses of whistleblowing, both Bowie (1982) and Bok (1980) emphasize that an employee has a significant obligation of loyalty to a company.

Bok, for instance, writes that the “whistleblower hopes to stop the game; but since he is neither referee nor coach, and since he blows the whistle on his own team, his act is seen as a violation of loyalty. ” For both, however, the duty of loyalty is not absolute; it is a prima facie duty that can be overridden in certain circumstances. These conditions are worked out by Bowie (p. 182; cited in Viten 1994, p. 15) in some detail: that the act of whistleblowing stem from appropriate moral motive of preventing nnecessary harm to others; that the whistleblower use all available internal procedures for rectifying the problematic behaviour before public disclosure, although special circumstances may preclude this; that the whistleblower have ‘evidence that would persuade a reasonable person’; that the whistleblower perceive serious danger that can result from the violation; that the whistleblower act in accordance with his or her responsibilities for ‘avoiding and/or exposing moral violations’; that the whistleblower’s action have some reasonable chance for success.

Duska (1997) objects to this approach in which whistleblowing is primarily framed as an act of disloyalty, one that needs justification or that can be pursued only under special circumstances. It is, writes Duska, “as if the act of a Good Samaritan is being condemned as an act of interference, as if the prevention of a suicide needs to be justified “(p. 335). The flaw, for Duska, is found in the notion that individuals should be loyal to a company.

Simply put, a company is not a person and not, therefore, deserving of loyalty. While a company typically consists of people, it is not a group of people with a purpose that transcends self-interest. Loyalty, according to Duska, exists in the context of human relationships and entails a readiness to engage in sacrificial behaviour. “A company is… an instrument with a specific purpose, the making of profit. To treat an instrument as an end in itself… does give the instrument a moral status it does not deserve” (p. 338).

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