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Introduction

 

Whistleblowing is “the disclosure by organizational
members of illegal, immoral, or illegitimate organizational acts or omissions
to parties who can take action to correct the wrongdoing” (Miceli and Near,
1992). It is an ever-growing phenomenon with people being encouraged by media
and ‘whistle blowing hotlines’ to come forward to point out the unethical behaviour
taking place within companies. The individual deciding on whether to ‘blow the
whistle’ on unethical behaviour will have a moral dilemma on if they decide to
take the route of taking the information public or being loyal to the firm. This
essay will look into how whistle blowing has shaped ethical behaviour and what
demands it makes of us as moral actors.

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Internal Whistleblowing

 

When we talk about whistle blowing, there are two
different types of whistle blowing that takes place within a business environment.

Internal whistle blowing refers the report of misconduct of individuals to a
different party within the organization (Bowen, Call, and Rajgopal, 2010).

Internal whistle blowing will be a cost effective method because it provides an
opportunity for the organization to remediate the misconduct before it
snowballs into a serious issue, thereby reducing an organization’s risk of
public reputation damage (….,…). The influence on which an individual decides
on what to do with information given to them covers two broad categories:
individual and situational (Ford and Richardson,1994). Individual factors are
unique characteristics of the individual making the relevant decision and this
is normally acquired by experience and socialization. Internal whistle blowing
could lead the employee being isolated by themselves and the trust being
questioned by other members of staff. Situational factors are dependent on what
situation the whistle blower is in to whether they will make an ethical or
unethical decision. Morally it will always be the right thing to report any
wrong doings to management but you put yourself at risk of being depressed
about going work every day because it is no longer enjoyable so the person must
balance the individual and situational factors and come to a decision on what
action they will take.

 

External
Whistleblowing

 

External whistle
blowing is taking the information you’ve found out to an industry regulator, a
journalist or some outside agency (Crane, 2016). External whistle blowing
normally takes place after the person who has handed this information to the
public feels like it hasn’t been acted upon internally after they have told the
company about the issue. It is almost seen as a last resort to ensure that the
whistle blowers are looking out in the interest of the stakeholder as they feel
like they have to as moral actors. The individual will need to look at
different factors on whether it will be the right decision to come out with
this information. Questions such as is the decision likely to have significant effects on others? Decision
likely to be characterized by choice,
in that alternative courses of action are open? Decision is perceived as ethically relevant by one or more
parties?  Michael Woodford was promoted
to the role of CEO of the Japanese firm Olympus back in 2011 when he discovered
and then exposed fraudulent transactions of around $1 billion. Two weeks after
being appointed CEO, he was then fired from his role. Due to fear for his life,
he moved from Japan to the United Kingdom. Michael Woodford is seen as a lucky
one compared to other whistle blowers who lose their livelihood for long
periods of time, suffer from stress and stress related diseases, marital break-up,
and sometimes even become the victims of violent retaliation (Painter-Morland & Ten Bos,2011). Coming forward is always the correct moral route to
go down but it comes with negatives that could ruin someone’s life.

 

Ethics

 

Whistle blowing at
face value is seen as very ethical. There is a conflict of interest between
your feelings, the organization and the society. The ‘Broken Windows’ theory
championed by former Mayor of New York, Rudolph Giuliani, promotes an ideology
where communities will report or fix a broken window. This means rectifying
even the smallest incidents of wrongdoing, thereby instilling similar
responsibilities in others and creating a better environment for all (Expolink,2012).

Allowing people to report whistle blowing will mean better self-regulation and
accountability within a firm so they remain firm in stamping out any ethical
issues that will tarnish the businesses reputation if taken public. Businesses
therefore will need to put the right tools in place so that someone could
report any wrongdoings directly to the management so that it can be dealt with
in house. Psychology research suggests that penalties are more
likely than rewards to communicate injunctive norms in the moral domain (Mulder
2008). Therefore, offering a reward for internal whistleblowing would be the
best way of creating an ethical business environment. When the organization is
willing to support an individual, they feel more likely to report unethical practices
in the business (Gundlach,1963).

 

Motivation

 

There will always be a reason as to why the person has
come forward with the information they have. For most cases, this is with good
reason such as protection of the business or people. However, some employees
may however blow the whistle for payback for injustice they might of felt. People reporting in the issues are seen to be taking
their time on reporting the issue back to the management team so that they can
build up a case strong enough to hurt the people they want to hurt. The reasons
for acting range from the altruistic (doing
the right thing) to the seemingly petty (I was passed over for that promotion).

Taken as a whole, their acts are as awe inspiring as saving human lives out of
a love of humanity and as trifling as slowing the issuance of a report out of
spite or anger” (O’Leary, 2006). In the US, 97% of whistle blowing cases are
thrown out because of the lack of substance to their cases (Washington Post,
2016). They may hide their identity or contact details, which leaves the
pentagon thinking about the motives behind why they have carried out a
compliant. Many whistle blowing lines fail because employees use the line to
report personal problems rather than unethical behaviour (Painter-Morland &
Ten Bos,2011). If people don’t use the tools given to them for the right
purpose, it will mean that companies will view it negatively and may abandon
using it. The
case of Edward Snowdon in 2013 is seen as the most controversial when it comes
to loyalty. He worked as a contractor of the US national security agency and
released classified documents which exposed mass surveillance and intelligence gathering
by the US and other governments to newspapers the Guardian and the Washington
Post. His motivation could be questioned as it could be argued that he used the
information he gathered to gain the financial benefits of exposing information like
this to media who would be more than willing to pay for information such as the
one he possessed.

 

Loyalty

 

This is one
the biggest demands as moral actors that the individual will need to balance
with when deciding what to do with this information. A firm has appointed you
in the role they have because they have considered your character ideal for the
job. This will mean that loyalty to firm wouldn’t be asked of them but instead
highly expected without being told that it is. Blowing the whistle on unethical
wrongdoings in a business is seen to some authors as being loyal to the firm as
they have argued that
a duty of loyalty not only permits whistleblowing, but actually requires it
(Corvino, 2002; Vanderckhove and Commers, 2004). Loyalty to the firm is always
important to any individual but when facing an ethical dilemma, it switches to
if the individual can handle what is going on as loyalty requires a certain
degree of tolerance of shortcomings, it does not require absolute or complete
tolerance” (Corvino, 2002). However, most of the authors have put
whistleblowing as an unethical move due to the individual being disloyal.

Employees have to accept what is correct until proven wrong as duties of
loyalty and confidentiality to
their employers is a key factor and that whistleblowing cannot be justified
except on the basis of a higher duty to the public
good
(Larmer,..). In 2010, Chelsea Manning, who was a US
army intelligence analyst, leaked several videos of US soldiers committing
potential war crimes and blew the whistle on this footage she found. WikiLeaks
took this information and published it online. Her motivations are very clear,
she wanted to expose the hidden truths behind the war in Iraq and couldn’t blow
the whistle internally due to her not knowing how far this has gone so it had
to be showed to the public to bring justice for it. Loyalty in the army is
considered a major rule as combat involves trust that your comrades will
support you throughout your journey. Exposing information such as this would be
a serious breach of the rules which was made evident with her 35 year sentence
but there has to be a line of how far the loyalty goes and in this case and
Chelsea Manning’s opinion, it could be said to have gone too far.

 

 

Code of
conduct

 

The code of
conduct is a set of rules that outlines behaviour that is prohibited or
required if someone is going to be employed by a business. It is there to point
out what is wrong and what is right in the place that you work so you can
decide on what you should do if you’re faced with an ethical dilemma. It is widely believed that everyone really
knows “what’s right or wrong, and the task of business ethics is to enforce
these notions” … whilst in reality … “there’s no agreement on what’s right and
wrong” (1991, p.13) and thus the task of business ethics is to facilitate a
consensus as to what is right and wrong (Schwartz, 2000). The code of conduct
could serve as a guidance to this. An effective code of conduct will mean that
the employees will feel comfortable enough
to voice concerns and believe that the organization will respond with
appropriate action. However, some authors disagree with the idea of a code of
conduct as they see it as an exploitation of a worker affect and
the organization’s attempt through normative control and management prescribed
emotion display rules to colonise ‘workers soul’ to achieve commercial gain
(Linehan & O’Brian, 2017). 

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