Whistleblower: An individual/group of persons who make the conscious decision to bring to light wrong doing that they have observed, heard and/or unintentionally become a part of, to authorities deemed to be on the same side of justice. Wrongdoing in this context implies activities that will be subversive to legal, ethical or moral standards.
-Suzette Henry-Campbell 2014
In theory, whistleblowers are revered as valiant warriors on the side of truth. In the real world, hmmm, not so much.
As humans we all seek some ideal that makes our world easier to understand and to navigate. But there are pitfalls. Huge craters that provide unease and trepidation because of the weight of the consequences.
I started thinking about the concept (whistleblower) after reading on an article on a blog space that encourages shared experiences about Conflict [Management]. The discussion revolved around the real (not imagined) challenges that ordinary citizens encounter when seeking to expose corruption. The absence of laws to protect the whistleblower appear to be a small part of the problem. I submit that the cultural practices within any one community, add a more robust and complex dimension to the pursuit of truth. How the majority within a social arena view this process will dictate its relevance to the community. It is easy to condemn someone for not speaking up, but placed in a similar role, how many of us would throw caution to the wind?
It must be an uneasy feeling to find yourself with information that is so damaging to reputation of a person, persons or organization. Who do you talk to? Is the information so damning that your life and that of close ties to you become expendable? Even if legislation exists, are you able to trust those who have been appointed to serve and protect?
Not many people are willing to risk life and limb to expose the dirt under the tip of the iceberg because the stakes are too high. Power and money are powerful tools and will be used to silence whistleblowers. Legislation alone is not the response as we have seen with several high profile events over the past decade.
Whether you are making the decision to expose malpractices in government or in your organization, you are in fact making a decision that can will affect your future. The question then becomes, “are you willing to risk your life, status within the organization/society or your families future, in the quest of something that is noble?” Such a question immobilizes each and every one of us and our responses will be weighted against how much we have to lose.
A colleague of mine, who was on his way out, chose the opportunity to expose to a recently hired CEO, examples of impropriety and abuse of power within a multi-national corporation, with the hope of him using the opportunity to launch an investigation. He alleges to have provided the new entrant with credible evidence that could be traced and used to make an informed decision. After three years, no credible evidence has been reported to suggest that anything was done. Imagine, if he had taken the opportunity to do exactly as he did, while still employed. That story would have been quite different.
I raise the discussion on this forum because it is not easy to speak out against wrongdoing especially in an era where the individual/companies at the center of the storm have access to resources that provide them with unimaginable support. Whistleblowers in many instances become victims, sometimes tragically. Such an outcome is likely because corruption has entered so many facets of our existence that it is impossible to move against individuals and organisations with deeply embedded interests…
unless there exists …
…a strong, competent, experienced lobby group, filled with and driven by uniformed code of ethics, with the types of resources needed to provide support to the whistleblower. The fight to air wrong has to be as strong as the need to conceal it. Possibly then, we will see a reduction in corrupt practices and a resolve to bring guilty participants to justice.
Until that happens, the ordinary citizen will feel unease in making the decision to assist in righting the wrongs in his community.
Copyright Suzette Henry -Campbell 2014