Whistle blowing is the act by a worker within a firm, of disclosing what he believes to be unethical illegal to the higher management, external authority or the general public. An employ may reveal illegal and unethical acts to the higher management which is referred to as internal whistle-blowing or to an external authority which is referred to as external whistle-blowing. The tern whistle blowing is mainly used for discourses about acts that are unethical and violates the rules that have been set down within organizations. Workers who witness wrong doings in their place of work sometimes may sometimes fear to whistle bow because of the fear of being victimized. In order to keep themselves out of trouble or being branded with some names, some employees choose to remain silent over the wrong doing that take place in their organizations. Ethical life is vital because morality seems to gain control on everything. A person may reject the codes of morality so that whistle blowing is optional but it is hard by the fact that a given agent will prefer not to be bound by the confines of morality. Whistle-blowing is seen from the viewpoint of professional morality that does not accept the idea of choice (O’Leary 579). This essay analyzes whistle blowing from an ethical point of view.
Increased whistle-blowing in the modern society has been made more intense by the proliferation of the internet which has made it easier for people to freely express themselves without following traditional channels which used to restrict them in the past. The prevalence of whistle blowing as a result of the internet has raised serious questions because of the risks that are involved. There are many benefits that whistle blowing come with but we also have consequences that may result from the actions of some people to reveal information which may be considered as secret in an organization. Many organizations, for instance, Wiki Leaks may derive its motivation from the noble ideals of transparency and openness in the modern society; many people in the contemporary society have questioned whether such ideals come at too high a price. This is because revealing information that is considered to be secret is a threat to the people who may want to use such information to the interests of the public. In specific, when whistle blowers reveal information that is confidential for the purposes of national security, the lives of many people like soldiers and civilians are put at risk. Some information may confintential to an extent in which the enemy is not supposed to know about. The revelation of such information may jeopardize many things that a government agency may be engaging in. Online whistle blowing has many negative effects because the problem that could be handled in a more professional way with a company or a government agency is brought to the limelight. This may jeopardize the investigations that are carried in regards to the issue that is being raised by the whistle-blowers because those who are involved in the evil deeds can take steps to cover up when they get the information.
Over the past few decades, whistle blowing has been in the limelight both within the general public and among researchers. Laws on whistle blowing continue to be formulated across the world as a result of increased interest in the subject. Many revolutionary organizations have been established in different countries to promote whistle blowing and protect those workers who reveal wrong doings in some organizations against harassment and victimization. There are many activities within most companies that go unreported as a result of the unwillingness of the employees of such organizations to reveal. Some acts such as nepotism, corruption, money laundering, kickbacks, and extortion and sexual harassment remain unreported in most companies. Given that the act of whistle-blowing is a personal choice of a worker within an organization, the key to whether an individual will blow the whistle on wrongdoing is whether the whistleblower perceives the policies of the company that are formulated to encourage moral autonomy, individual responsibility, and the company support for them.
A broad view of whistle blowing is the disclosure by members of a firm of practices that are not legal and acceptable in the society under the control of their workers, to persons or firms. The act of whistle-blowing is seen as a bold step to sanitize an organization that has been negatively affected by the wrong doings that have been taking places before coming to light. The act might be labeled as one of “dissidence,” or may be seen as disloyal by some but in the public interest by others who may have in one way or another be affected by the act that has been revealed. Given that the act of whistle-blowing is a personal choice, the key to whether an individual will blow the whistle on wrongdoing is whether the whistle-blower perceives organizational policies are designed to encourage moral autonomy, individual responsibility, and organizational support for whistle-blowers. Organizational polices that allow autonomy give the workers freedom to express their opinions regardless of the circumstances. Moral agency is vital for the determination of moral behavior and it enables the moral evaluation of the agent’s behavior. Autonomy plays an important role in conceptions of moral obligation and responsibility in any organization. Autonomous simply means acting based on reasons and motives that are seen to be one’s own and not the product of organizational policies and external forces such as whistle blowing legislation which is the central value in the Kantian tradition of moral philosophy that moral requirements are based on the standard of rationality he called the “Categorical Imperative. The Categorical Imperative in Kant’s ethical system is an unconditional moral law that applies to all rational beings and therefore, even if pressure exists in an organization to not report wrongdoing, a rational, moral person will withstand such pressure, regardless of perceived retaliation, for the reason that it is a moral requirement to do so.
The morality of revealing wrong doings within a firm might be viewed from the perspective that organizations have a moral obligation not to harm. There are five criteria that have been identified when whistle blowing. Firstly, the firm’s actions will do serious and considerable harm to others; secondly, the whistle blowing act is justifiable once the employee reports it to her immediate supervisor and makes her moral concerns known; thirdly absent any action by the supervisor, the worker should take the matter all the way up to the board, if necessary; and lastly documented evidence must exist that would convince a reasonable and impartial observer that one’s views of the situation is correct and that serious harm may occur; and thus the worker must believe that going public will create the necessary change to protect the public and is worth the risk to oneself. Most companies have come up with polices that help to protect those who follow the right procedures in revealing secrets are protected from victimization.
Internal whistle blowing is considered as beneficial to organizations because it helps to reveal the ills that may lead to the downfall of many organizations (Craft 226). However, losses can be incurred within organizations if the management does not urgent steps to address the issue. This may be as a result of the negative company image that may be generated by internal whistle blowing. This may also lead to poor business relationships with other companies that place high value on morality and good business ethics. Business partners can also refuse to get associated with companies that are seen to be condoning wrong doing when they are exposed by the whistle blowers. It is clear that those who reveal wrong doings in organizations are on the ultimate of no win situation because by speaking on the ills that affect their firms, they face the wrath of the managers. Thus, many whistle blowers can be characterized as reluctant dissenters who do not like the convention way of doing things in an organization. Managers see whistle blowers as people who have selfish motives because they have little control over most things in an organization. Some people argue that when one takes motives to be more important than their outcomes, then what is crucial is not the public but the purity of heart. It is argued that it is good to blow the whistle to reveal wrong doings rather than as a way of revenging upon colleagues at work. If a whistle blower succeeds in revealing wrong doings within an organization and keeping their job, then they did not make the right decision as a result of the consequences. Most of the workers who engage in whistle blowing within their organizations end up losing their jobs. Over ninety percent of employees who have engaged in whistle blowing in the past few years have ended up losing their jobs. Some have been treated as insane and others have been blacklisted thus losing their savings. Thus, many employees chosen not to engage in whistle blowing because they choose to stay out of trouble.
In the past few decades, the political significance of whistle blowing has been ignored and some vital questions relating to the issue remain unanswered. Telling the truth at you place of work is a practice of resistance which is generated by the reaction process (Mansbach 363). Reactions affecting decisions on whether to reveal wrong doings in companies include the fear of reprisal and the lack of skills in effective disputing among many other factors in the contemporary society. Whistle blowing is a threat to the hierarchical authority in any organization in the modern society. The relationships of some workers at their places of work may also be destroyed as a result of whistle blowing. Most policy makers discourage frivolous whistle blowing but encourage the legitimate complaints in a firm. In most organizations that that are interested in exploring legitimate complaints, systems have been set up that ensure that the complaints of the workers are addressed in time. A system have been set up in which a senior executive who operates outside the normal chain of command in most organization is available to deal with the complaints that are raised by the employees. The senior executive is also mandated to deal with concerns on the confidential matters of the workers. Workers who feel that they have been aggrieved by actions of certain actors within an organization can direct their complaints to the senior executive who operates out of the normal chain of command that characterize most organizations in the modern society.
Secrecy and confidentiality have become vital both in governmental agencies and corporate operations throughout the world. The United States government has a hierarchical system of classified information, stretching from “unclassified” to “top secret” which can only be accessed by a particular group of people who have been mandated with using such information for the interests of the general public. For any level at or above “confidential”, the government expects that releasing such classified documents publicly would do some degree of damage to national security and expose the lives of many people to danger. It is morally wrong to engage in an act which may put the lives of many people at risk. The trade secrets in the corporate world are crucial because they help businesses to compete favorably in the market. Whistle blowing can erode some of the gains that have been made in most corporations for the reason that secrets that may be revealed can be used by competitors to jeopardize the activities of the organization. The modern competitive world is characterized by some people who use the down fall of others to make gains. Information that may be revealed by whistle blowers might be used by the competitors to portray the weaknesses of the company that has been affected by tarnishing its image. Confidentially is key to the well being of both the organization and the employees because it help to shield the larger organization from the machinations of people who have evil motives towards the well being of the organization. An organization that remains competitive in the market is good for the workers because they are the one who benefits from the gains that such organizations make in the modern society. There exists a bridge to be crossed when the information covers up wrongdoing in an organization. It is at this juncture where whistleblowers are thought to be most valuable, and where whistle blowing organizations such derive their idealistic motivations. The whistle blowers put the interest of the general public before other interests if the information that is considered to be confidential covers the wrong doings in both government agencies and other private organizations. If confidentiality reaches an extent to which it is hiding evil deeds that are only meant to benefit a few people then it is morally right that such information is revealed by whistle blowers.
Whistle-blowing policies should be formulated to make employees to be responsible for their deeds and more liable. The policies should be designed in such a way that they protect both the worker and the organization and protect them from people with ill motives. Whistle blowing policies also should be motivated by the desire to treat employees fairly, for instance individuals that are concerned about possible wrongdoing within the organization, who honestly expresses their concerns, should be treated fairly. Those who find themselves the target of whistleblowers’ accusations should be treated fairly and given a fair hearing before they are admonished by the general public. It is wrong to deny people a fair hearing if they have been accused by whistle blowers of evil deeds. Whistle blowing policies can help ensure that all employees concerned receive equitable treatment by standardizing the way such situations are handled. There is, however, no consensus whether whistle blowing policies in companies actually increase the individualization of work, allowing employees to behave in accordance with their conscience and in line with societal expectations or whether they are another management tool to control employees and protect organizations from them (Tsahuridu, Eva, and Wim 107)
Whistle blowing policies can also ensure that employees’ right to free speech are not violated by limiting the way they are supposed to express themselves and raise complaints. This right of expression is paramount and thus organizations should not put in place policies that are aimed at limiting the way workers are supposed to express themselves. Workers do not have the right to make malicious or irresponsible charges of wrongdoing that are not supported by facts but should have all their facts verified before going to the public with the information. Employees do not have the right to disrupt the workplace just because they think organizational actions are unwise or because they disagree with company policy on various issues that the policy may not be in their favor, but they should not be expected to go along silently when they are aware of probable wrongdoing, or when they are asked to do something they feel violates the law or generally accepted moral standards. They should be bold and speak out if they feel that there are many evil deeds that bedevil the organization. This is also of great benefit to the organization because it prevents the organization from being crumbed by evil people who may not want the information to reach the public. Recognizing the rights of workers to speech does not imply that organizational leaders must abandon traditional authority structures or abdicate their responsibilities as managers. What it does mean is that companies recognize the legitimate right of workers to express their concerns with organizational practices that they believe violate the law or are against accepted moral standards that govern the larger society. The policies should not be aimed making workers fear to express them when they suspect wrong doings but should be rather employee –friendly. This means that employees can freely walk in offices that are concerned with their well being and reveal things that may not be right within the organization.
In conclusion, it is evident that workers who are justified in blowing the whistle should not suffer retaliation as a result of their bold steps to reveal the wrong doings in an organization. What ought to be done to protect whistle-blowers from this fate which has befell most whistle blowers in the past few years. A plausible case can be made for the legislation in this area, but the difficulty is in drafting laws that achieve a desired result without interfering unduly in the legitimate conduct of business in the modern society.
Craft, Jana L. “A review of the empirical ethical decision-making literature: 2004–2011.” Journal of Business Ethics 117.2 (2013): 221-259.
O’Leary, Rosemary. The ethics of dissent: Managing guerrilla government. Cq Press, 2013.
Mansbach, Abraham. “Keeping Democracy Vibrant: Whistle blowing as Truth Telling in the Workplace.” Constellations 16.3 (2009): 363-376.
Tsahuridu, Eva, and Wim Vandekerckhove. “Organizational Whistle blowing Policies: Making Employees Responsible or Liable?” Journal of Business Ethics 82.1 (2008): 107-118