Tuesday, February 1, 2011

What is Whistleblowing?” - Professor M.S.Rao

What is Whistleblowing?

Whistleblowers are the people who work either within or outside the organization and raise alarm if any wrongdoing takes place. Usually these people report misconduct, irregularities, malpractices, corruption, and other activities that are unethical and unlawful and detrimental to either organizations or societies. It is also about reporting the violation of the rules, regulations and laws on the part of employers by the employees.


Whistleblowers serve as checks and balances for the employers and authorities. As press is the fourth estate in democracy and serves as the watch dog to check any irregularities, the whistleblowers also serve the interests either internally or externally for the public good. Whistleblowers can ensure ethics as employers will be more careful of being caught in case of any wrongdoings. In addition, they enhance accountability and responsibility within the system.

Challenges for Whistleblowers

They have to face the reprisals by their employers and also from their colleagues. Less chances of getting employment elsewhere as their track record upsets the career opportunities elsewhere. However, for external whistleblowers there will not be any organizational reprisals. But they have to face challenges from other quarters.

Whistle blowing is like a double-edged sword. It is good if the whistleblower is genuine in highlighting the wrongdoings. If the whistleblower happens to be a rogue it is a threat for the organizations and societies. Several frauds could have been averted if the whistleblowers have been protected. The collapse of companies like Enron, WorldCom, and Layman Brothers could have been averted and the damage would have been minimized had the whistleblowers been encouraged and protected.

Case Study

Stephen was a professor in a private educational engineering institution. The institution does not pay salaries on time. It delays the payments and defaults in giving monthly salaries. Every employee has to execute an agreement of one year for serving the institution and they are not allowed to leave the institution during the contractual period. It has unfriendly employee policies and procedures and people join as a last resort if they don’t find employment opportunities in established and decent educational institutions. When an employee does not extend agreement for another one year after completion of the contract, employee will be sent out without giving salary for the last two to three months.

Now it was the turn of the Professor Stephen whose contract had come to an end. As usual he was relieved without paying salary for the last two months. He brought the irregularities to the authorities. The employer of the educational institution threatened Professor Stephen with dire consequences such as physical elimination. Professor Stephen was unruffled and moved ahead against the injustice as he hailed from defence background and pursued the matter with various organizations and professional bodies. Finally, the employer surrendered and paid the salary to Professor Stephen. Because of whistleblowing by Professor Stephen, the governmental bodies kept more vigil on the educational institution and things have been streamlined and all the employees began getting salaries regularly and thanked Professor Stephen for his courageous fight against irregularities and injustice. But Professor Stephen had to struggle very hard for salary to maintain his family members and had to face the threats and pressures from his ex-employer. Besides, Professor Stephen had to struggle for employment as the ex-employer informally told other educational institutions not to hire him. Hence, it is not cakewalk for whistle blowers.

Role of Leadership

If the leadership is strong and ethical there will be less role for whistleblowers at the corporate world. When whistleblowers enter into the arena it means there is lack of ethical or vigilant leadership at the top. It is the time for the top leaders to take stock of the situation, pull up their socks and take preventive measures to set right their corporate houses in order.

Final Word

We are not here to suffer silently. We are here to find out unethical practices and bring them to the notice of the authorities so that human dignity and respect is maintained. To conclude in the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., "Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."

Professor M.S.Rao
Founder and Chief Consultant,
MSR Leadership Consultants, India
Blog: http://profmsr.blogspot.com
Where Knowledge is Wealth
Email: profmsr7@gmail.com

Dear readers,

I would appreciate your comments about this article.

1 comment:

Dinesh said...

Is there a way out to make whistleblower an accepted and recognized person and have a method where people can be promoted to become whistle blowers. May be there can be a site and and a support group of whistle blowers