Remaking One's Life:
Aftermath of Retaliation
MILTON CLARK and others at the Chicago office of the Environmental Protection Agency retained their jobs despite prolonged conflict with their superiors. When they were vindicated and the EPA leadership ousted, they were in an excellent position to resume productive lives and to put their difficulties behind them. Of the sixty-four whistleblowers we studied, twenty were able to hold on to their positions; of these, all worked in the public sector. Unlike the Chicago group, most of the others paid a heavy price for staying on. They felt marginal and isolated and believed that their careers had been severely curtailed. Since their superiors could never forget that they had put principle above loyalty and disobeyed orders from the top, the resisters suffered from chronic retaliation. Several graphically described the dangers of taking on the bureaucracy. "My advice to potential whistleblowers," wrote Al Louis Ripskis, who continued in the federal government, "can be summarized in two words: 'Forget it!' "
But if you can't forget it, then leak the information—making sure that your name isn't associated with it. Finally, if you can't do the above, then at least find out what it takes to be a successful whistleblower and the possible consequences. Be prepared to be ostracized, your career coming to a screeching halt, and perhaps even being driven into bankruptcy.