Are Employees Afraid of Whistle Blowing?

November 19 2013

It’s a desperate situation one never wants to find him or herself … report the workplace problem to a higher authority or keep your mouth shut? Take, for example, a driver in Connecticut who reported an unsafe truck within the fleet at Polumbo Trucking. The company went on the offensive and sued the driver and the mechanic who leveled the accusations. Appeals followed and the federal government eventually upheld the rights of the accusers. Whistle blowers everywhere sighed relief, but there’s no word on the fate of the employee at Polumbo Trucking. He’s likely going to have a hard time staying employed or finding another company willing to hire the tattletale.

Protection for tattletales was what labor unions first aimed to provide during the 1800s. Workers often couldn’t complain without serious repercussions. And while many unions organized for the purpose of raising wages and improving harsh working conditions, the real victories were improved safety conditions in the workplace. When workers were not afraid to report problems, working environments became safer.

Today, most labor unions obsess about contracts and pension plans, idealistic for a fairness in compensation. But safety remains a major concern, frequently brought up in negotiations. Ample break time and a reasonable work weeks prevent human error, for instance.

But most of us don’t have the protection of labor unions, although everyone agrees on the necessity for protecting tattletales who protect us.  All too often the tattletales become martyrs, sacrificing their own careers in the name of justice. Lydia Dishman recently wrote about the career danger in calling out an employer in the name of justice: How to Whistleblow Like Edward Snowden Without Blowing Your Career. We’ll summarize the points below:

  1. Examine the Risk vs. Reward
  2. Blow Without Blowing Your Career
  3. Dialogue
  4. Human Resources Should Play a Role, Too

Seems like common sense, but in the heat of the moment we find ourselves not thinking clearly. Perhaps there’s an immediate threat or you have anger over the situation. Whatever the reason, it is important to cover your bases and mitigate the fallout if you go public about what’s going on within your company.


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