Whistle-Blowing

Article excerpt

Chuck was 40 years old and had attained a fair degree of worldly success. He had a good job as quality control inspector working for a major Texas construction firm. His working conditions were good, he enjoyed his co-employees, his pay was competitive and he even had enough money for a nice home, yearly vacations, a new car and a comfortable lifestyle. But Chuck had a problem -- his bosses.

When Chuck pointed out serious safety flaws during the construction of a nuclear power plant in Glen Rose, Texas, his bosses blew him off. His repeated complaints to higher-ups drew no response. In fact, several superiors told Chuck if he knew what was good for him and his family, he'd lay off the "holier than thou" attitude about the construction defects. "Every project has deficiencies" they said. "Don't expect this one to be perfect."

If Chuck came to you for advice, what would you tell him? Go along to get along? Try to correct the problems as best you can but don't make a scene? Blow the whistle and run to the newspapers? Knowing that Chuck could be putting his career, his income, perhaps even his safety on the line, what advice would you give him? Chuck's story is a true one and, unfortunately, did not turn out well. When his superiors refused to correct the problems, Chuck brought it to the attention of government regulators. Sure enough, the construction defects were addressed, but Chuck lost that job, and then another job when he went to court to testify against his first employer. "My second employer thought I was a troublemaker," said Chuck. He lost his income, his home, his new car, and was even threatened with the loss of his life. Would he blow the whistle again? Probably so. "The whistle-blower has about the same image as the snitch does," Chuck commented. "Everyone thinks you're slime but I know I was the cutting edge of the knife that forced repairs to be made. I know I did right. And I know I'll always sleep right at night." What is a whistle-blower? According to John Boatright in his book Ethics and the Conduct of Business, it is a person inside an organization who voluntarily releases information outside the normal channels of communication about some significant misconduct committed by the organization that is injurious to the public. Importantly, whistle-blowing must be motivated out of morality and ethics, not as a way to seek revenge or personal advancement. Whistle-blowing, as defined, is an ethical activity. Six questions But the inherent conflict for the whistle-blower is divided loyalty. She (hopefully) wants to be a dedicated employee, loyal to her employer. He has no desire to bring discredit on his organization. But a larger loyalty beckons them to speak. A loyalty to conscience. A loyalty to the common good. A loyalty that urges them to set aside self-preservation and corporate allegience for a greater good. …