Whistleblowing Ethics Essay
Perhaps, one of the most difficult things to do when inside an organizational setting is saying when “enough is enough”. Although it is true that every organization, workplace, or community has their own flaws, just as how they have their own rules, delineating what is ‘going beyond’ is not exactly as easy as it sounds like. Therefore, any individual regardless of his/her rank, gender, class, age, etc. must know when to blow the whistle. In order to do this, one must first know what is enough and even this is subject to limitations.
As for many experts out there, the belief is that the threshold for any flaws or mistakes that are committed within an organization is if it poses certain threats to the organization and the people around it, or if it crosses and undermines the ‘rule of law’ as established by the society. In this equation, one might ask about the ethics of whistleblowing in doing this, since at times conflicts might arise in terms of “loyalties” especially if the one doing the mishaps is a friend, colleague, or even a family member. However, by looking into it, it is also more unethical to let someone get away with their wrongdoings since it might not only damage the system or the organizations as well as the people around them but even the people that someone cares for. Nevertheless, this debate is still ongoing today with plenty of people being subscribed to both sides.
In other situations, it might still be harder to blow the whistle, even if ethics is not on the line. This is most likely due to inefficiencies and other difficulties in the system itself such as the method or channels of reporting or even the hierarchy with which to do things. Perhaps, the system is too bureaucratic that it takes a long time for these reports to go to the right people who could and would do the necessary steps to cull these mishaps. In these cases, people how directly sees the action might feel a little bit frustrated and ‘unethical’ since their actions are not reaping what is needed. Thus, this is the time when these people do unnecessary steps which, instead of helping improve the situation, lead to conflicts and other actions which lead to other circumstances that make matters worse. These actions are usually outside of simply “whistle blowing” (which is healthy in the correct circumstances) are now also considered unethical since they try to circumvent the established laws are regulations which are designed to deal with these matters. Although there are other people who believe that these are acts of heroism, most of the times stepping out of these established notions could just lead to more trouble and are not exactly the best thing to do in order to bring peace and harmony to each and every member of the organization.
Nonetheless, ethics in itself is a very complicated matter. What might seem ethical for one person, might not be for another. This is exactly the case for whistleblowing and thus for any individual who experiences this dilemma, it is important to know that when confused and frustrated about what to do, the best way might be to stick with the pre-established channels and methods of dealing with conflict. By doing this, not only are these individuals doing their part for the betterment of society, they are also doing a part for both the betterment of themselves (as a member of a collection of individuals) and at times, the betterment of the people whom they “blow the whistle” for.
Whistle blowing is a topic of interest because it pertains to contemporary issues often kept in secrecy, privacy and confidentiality, all to the detriment of the society or the organization. While whistle blowing is feared and is a subject which many are not willing to talk about, indeed, it is the high time that the society acknowledged the role of whistle blowing in identifying and bringing into open cases of gross misconduct amongst either employees or government officials.
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Whistle blowing creates room for those in low positions to have a chance to express themselves and particularly to bring into the open issues which are deliberately kept away from the public. In that way, whistleblowers are able to face those in authority who often act in an offensive manner because they believe they are not vulnerable. By highlighting incidences of violation of the law, whistle blowers in organizations promote good ethics which requires that employees whether senior staff or at the bottom line, hold on to integrity, honesty and accountability. Indeed, whistle blowing in as far as business ethic is concerned, is a show of accountability and integrity given the fact that some issues if not laid open to public scrutiny can lead to the collapse of organizations.
Often, issues that cause whistleblowers to come out in the open and highlight gross misconduct as well as violation of issues such as work safety, professional code of conduct, fraud as well as discrimination at work, are what encompass the act of whistleblowing. Therefore it is evident that whistle blowing is part and parcel of maintenance of corporate responsibility. There are some cases whereby organizations do not have in-built systems to check against violations against employees. In such cases, it is whistleblowing that is tasked with the responsibility of identifying issues that are a threat to public good. Were it not for whistleblowing, issues such as fraudulent reporting, underreporting as well as financial misconduct, which is orchestrated by top management, would end up bringing down organizations.
But thanks to whistle blowing, issues can be brought into the open either to people at authority such as managers or government officials before a great amount of damage is done. Both internal and external forms of whistle blowing enable violations against the public or employees to be scrutinized and possibly to cease. Although most organizations have internal systems, which play a role similar to that of whistleblowing, such internal systems are often incapable of controlling top management as long as it is bent on committing violations. Such in-built systems, which supplement efforts of whistleblowing, include auditor’s roles, which can bring into the open gross misconduct and violations of procedures in an organization. There have been ethical concerns surrounding the topic of whistleblowing. This includes challenges which whistle blowers face. In most cases, most people are torn between sympathizing with the organization, which suffers from negative publicity occasioned by allegations by whistle blowers.
There is a debate on whether it is moral to ‘spill the beans’, an action which portends the danger of one being terminated from employment. It takes great risk to go on with plans of whistleblowing considering challenges and potential for prosecution. It is also ethically debatable on whether it is morally right for employers to sack or engage in actions of victimization towards whistleblowers. Also, of ethical concern, is what is at stake if one goes ahead with plans to do whistleblowing. Another ethical issue which comes to form when considering whether to go ahead with whistle blowing or not is the danger one is putting to the immediate family and friends who stand to suffer if the action of whistleblowing backfires and as a result the whistleblower ends up in prison and is therefore seen as a villain.
Whistleblowing therefore, has a lot of ethical and moral implications for the whistleblower and a great deal of the good and the bad resulting from whistleblowing poses a great dilemma to employees. Equally challenging is the fact that whistleblowers are involved in a legal tussle before they can prove their case. Again, this raises ethical questions as to how appropriate and beneficial it is for an employee to undertake whistleblowing. Generally, advantages of whistleblowing in terms of moral right outdo the advantages of not whistleblowing considering that many people are suffering in organizations and in other institutions from injustices such as racial discrimination, religious discrimination as well as discrimination on the basis of national origin and gender. Therefore, as long as whistleblowing helps fight the vices in the society, then it must be viewed as ethically correct since it upholds morality.
In conclusion, whistleblowing has become a highly publicized concept given a lot of media coverage. The fact that most whistleblowers especially in terms of whistleblowing depend on the media and publicity to prove their case is a demonstration that the media plays a very important role in advancing the cause of whistleblowers. As evidenced by the frequency in which whistleblowing is given coverage in current events in the news, whistleblowing is important if the wrongs, which go on behind doors in offices, are to be brought to the fore.
- Miethe, Terance, D. 1991. Whistleblowing At Work: Tough Choices in exposing Fraud, Waste and Abuse on the Job. Westview Press.
- William, H. Shaw and Vincent Barry.2007. Moral Issues in Business 10th ed. Belmont, California: Wadsworth.