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
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,
then another job when he went to court to testify against his first
"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
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.
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. …