Many people think that whistleblowing belongs to the government and the public sector, but this is not the case - and should not be the case. Whistleblowers are known to report ethical and moral dilemmas and problems they experience in the workplace, but there is more to whistleblowing than assumed.
The whistleblower who raises awareness
As mentioned, whistleblowers are found both in governments and in the public sector - large organizations with many employees. However, they also exist in private companies, and the scheme should be more visible in the private sector as well.
Whistleblowing is an essential tool in society, as it draws attention to violations and issues that would otherwise go unnoticed.
Over the years, whistleblowing has taken on a more negative connotation when it is mentioned. As well as being linked to gossip and gossipmonger, the word is also associated with fraud - and we need to move away from this. Whistleblowing is not fraud, but informative knowledge sharing about wrongdoing in a company.
Essentially, whistleblowing exists to reduce misconduct in the workplace - not to share gossip between colleagues.
Having whistleblowing schemes in the workplace has a preventive effect. When employees are aware that all wrongdoings can be reported, they are more aware of them.
Whistleblowing often has a high success rate, but many people also fear retaliation, so it is important that employees know that they are supported by the whistleblowing scheme.
What whistleblowers need to remember when considering whether or not to report an action is that reporting leads to justice and corrects wrongdoing within the company. As well as putting things right internally within the company, it also creates a more positive perception of the company from customers and partners.
So, to prevent fraud, corruption and wrongdoing in a company, it is important for the organization to support the whistleblower scheme.
There are two main reasons why whistleblowing prevents wrongdoing in the workplace:
- Those responsible for the misconduct are caught in the breach and punished appropriately according to the gravity of the case. This can be a warning for misconduct, being moved within the company, or in the worst case scenario, being fired. The punishment for the misconduct depends on its severity.
- Whistleblowing has a preventive effect in the workplace. When employees know that they can be reported for wrongdoing, they are more likely to avoid committing it. On the other hand, employees will continue to violate regulations if they see that there are no consequences for the violation.
Transparency is key in the workplace
Transparency and accountability are two important attributes for a company. When a company shows accountability and transparency to their employees, they also show that their employees can trust them - and that they trust their employees.
Transparency and accountability also means that employees are comfortable in their workplace. When employees don't have to expend energy doubting the employer, they are also more effective in the work they do.
Whistleblowing thus has a clear effect on employees - both when it comes to their productivity, but also their well-being at work. When workplace wellbeing is high, employees will also have more energy; this energy can be used to improve the company's cybersecurity, among other things.
Whistleblowing schemes are also encouraged to discuss whistleblowing with employees before a whistleblowing case occurs. It is better to be proactive in the fight against wrongdoing in the workplace than to have to address whistleblowing after the company has experienced an incident.
Bad reputation is worse than no reputation
One thing a company needs to consider about whistleblowing cases is that they often end up in the public eye. If a company experiences a case where, for example, an employee has violated various regulations and policies, it creates a bad reputation for the company in question. Especially if the violations have taken place over a long period of time. This indicates that employees have not trusted the company and therefore fail to report the incidents, which ultimately damages the company.
Therefore, a bad reputation is worse than no reputation. When a company (whether in the private or public sector) gets a bad reputation due to whistleblowing, customers and business partners may reassess their relationship with the company.
If a company on the contrary, maintains a good reputation it will lead to good cooperation with the respective partners. The publicity a company receives shapes the image the public has of it.
We are connected across the internet
Because of social media, the majority of the population is connected - in one way or another. Therefore, it is also easier for whistleblowing cases to come to light. There will be more people seeing scandals as well as victories for companies and organizations.
This also means that whistleblowing cases will not only impact internally within the company, but also on several different platforms: internal communication, social media and news media. Cases will reach more people, which also means that more people will form an opinion about the company. Companies can shape that opinion and attitude in a more positive direction if they have a good whistleblowing scheme and handle cases well. Similarly, it works the other way around.
Therefore, companies are encouraged to take a second look at their whistleblowing scheme, if they have one at all. If not, they are encouraged to put one in place.
Caroline is a copywriter here at Moxso beside her education. She is doing her Master's in English and specializes in translation and the psychology of language. Both fields deal with communication between people and how to create a common understanding - these elements are incorporated into the copywriting work she does here at Moxso.View all posts by Caroline Preisler