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Whistle-blowing is an attempt by a present or former member of an organisation to disclose the wrong acts in an organisation. First it was made by the government employees who made complaints of corruption or mismanagement in government offices. Later on it is used in corporatesector.
Features of whistle-blowing:
Whistle-blowing is the release of information by a member of the organisation regarding the illegal or corrupt conduct in the organisation. It has the following salient features: First of all. whistle-blowing can be done only by a member of an organisation. It is not like a witness of a crime but by an employee within the organisation. When the employees who become aware of illegal or immoral conduct in their own organisation resort to whistle-blowing. Secondly. there must be information in whistle-blowing. It should involve the release of non-public information. There is a distinction between blowing the whistle and sounding the alarm. The whistle blowers have to reveal new facts. Thirdly. the information should be of some significant kind of misconduct on the part of an organisation. Whistle-blowing is reserved for matters of substantial importance. For example, companies paying heavy funding for political parties is known to outsiders only from people who are associated with the companies. Fourthly. the information through whistle-blowing must be released outside the normal channels of communication. Whistle-blowing is not necessarily involving the process of "going public" and revealing the information outside. It can also be an internal whistle-blowing. In fact, many corporations have an announced policy of encouraging employees to submit any suspicions related to misconduct to the Chief Executive Officer. Fifthly. whistle-blowing is expected to bring about a desired change. It is not
merely passing on information. For example, reporting to a credit-rating agency that a person faces bankruptcy is not an example of whistle-blowing but of ordinary looking. Sixthly. whistle-blowing has to be done in a voluntary way. That is why the whistle blowers go to the extent of accusing evidence. Lastly. whistle-blowing must be undertaken as a moral protest. It should not be for the sake of seeking revenge or personal advancement. Thus a distinction has to be made between a genuine whistle blower and corporate malcontents.
Whistle-blowing and lovalty:
The major obstacle in justifying whistle-blowing is the relationship between the employees and loyalty to the organisation. For example, Sissela Bok says:"Furthermore, the whistle blower hopes to stop the game, but since he is neither referee nor coach, and since he blows the whistle on his own team, his act is seen as a violation of loyalty. In holding his position, he has assumed certain obligations to his colleagues and clients. Loyalty to colleagues and to clients comes to be pitted against loyalty to the public interest, to those who may be injured unless the revelation is made". According to loyalty argument, an employee is an agent of an employer. An agent is acting in the interests of other person. The agent has to act in the interest of the principal. An employee need not be an agent for some unsocial, antisocial and unethical acts. After all, employees are hired for good purposes and welfare promoting activities. The loyal agent argument does not prevent whistleblowing. Loyalty to moral principles is higher than the loyalty to persons. It does not prevent a loyal agent to be a whistle blower. In fact, many whistle blowers are often loyal employees who make whistle-blowing with a belief that they are doing a job in the best interests of the company. The likelihood of voice increases with the degree of loyalty.
The necessary conditions for whistle-blowing:
(1) Moral importance: Whistle-blowing can be justified if there is a real issue related to moral standards. For example, if a drug is capable of producing more harm than the curative nature, a whistleblowing can be justified. An alarm can be sounded about the defects of a system or a product. (2) All facts: Before whistle-blowing all the necessary facts and figures should be available. The charges should be well founded. The necessary documentation and corroborative evidences should be made available. The evidence should be consisting of verifiable facts and not mere rumours. Very often whistle-blowing cases end up in court and this requires a strong proof to stand up under scrutiny. The support for the charges should be capable of meeting the legal standards of the law of the land. (3) Exhaustion of all channels: A whistle-blower should not be after a sensational scene creating effort. He or she should exhaust all the available internal channels. Hence whistle-blowing should be a last resort. Judicial courts do not consider a complaint unless all possible appeals within an organization have been exhausted. Many organisations have internal channels to express employees their concerns. In some cases, external whistle-blowing is faster and quicker in effects than internal whistle-blowing. Such instances have happened even in big organisations like NASA. (4) Best way: There are many methods available to the whistle-blower. The whistle-blower should select a suitable method. For example, a complaint to the Vigilance Department, SEBI, CBI, and Environmental Protection Agency can be sufficient in India. The leaking of information to the local press can be sensational but not remedial in the case of an ethical problem. The whistle-blowers should focus on the important issues and refrain from making personal attacks on the persons involved. They should be acting as responsible
people and not crazy radicals. It will be appreciated if the whistle-blowers develop a clear plan of action. (5) Chances of success: It is important to blow the whistle only when there is a good chance for success. Whistleblowing may be unsuccessful for a variety of reasons. On certain times the whistle-blower fails to make case that attracts widespread concern from others. On certain other times the organisation is too powerful to control the effects of whistleblowing. Finally whistle-blowing will not be successful if the public is not sufficiently responsive.
Arguments against whistle-blowing protection:
(1) The employees may find an excuse to blow the whistle in order to cover up their own mistakes or incompetencies. (2) The freedom to run the business by employers will be restricted. The courts will have to review many business decisions. The spirit of co-opetation and trust will be defeated. There is also a scope for increasing litigation. (3) If whistle-blowing can be protected by law, there should be a number of remedial measures like reinstatement in the workplace and monetary compensation to be undertaken.
Arguments for whistle-blower protection:
(1) The illegal corporate conduct, gross waste and mismanagement can be brought to the notice of concerned authorities and public by whistle-blowers. Ralph Nader observes: "Corporate employees are among the first to know about industrial dumping of mercury or fluoride sludge into waterways, defectively designed automobiles, or undisclosed adverse effects of prescription drugs and pesticides. They are the first to grasp the technical capabilities to prevent existing product or pollution hazards. But they are very often the last to speak out, much less to refuse to be recruited for acts of corporate or governmental negligence or predation. Staying silent in the face of a professional duty
has direct impact on the level of consumer and environmental hazards". (2) The whistle-blowers have to be protected on the basis of freedom of speech. The constitution has given the freedom of speech as one of the fundamental rights. (3) A whistle-blower is doing his job in the larger interests of a nation. He is not doing this for a petty publicity. Naturally the whistle blower has to be protected by law.
Components of a whistle-blowing policv:
(1) The employees should understand that they have a responsibility to report about the unethical behaviour through internal channels. (2) A well defined procedure has to be established allowing employees to report in a confidential manner. A few companies use an ethics "hot line" allowing employees by calling a number. (3) The success of a whistle-blowing policy depends on the ability of the people who receive and investigate the reports from employees. Apart from maintaining confidence, a thorough investigation has to be undertaken. (4) An appropriate action has to be undertaken fro unethical acts of employees. The reporting employees should be informed about the outcome of an investigation. (5) Above all, a guarantee should be provided against retaliation.
(1) Whistle-blowing refers to disclose of wrong acts of an organisation either by the present or former member. (2) Features of whistle-blowing Done by a member. There must be information. Misconduct. Outside the normal channels of communication. To bring about a desired change. Voluntary act. Should be taken as a moral protest. (3) Whistle-blowing and loyalty. (4) Necessary conditions for whistle-blowing:
Moral importance. All facts. Exhaustion of all channels. Best way. Chances of success. (5) Arguments against whistle-blower protection. (6) Arguments for whistle-blower protection. (7) Components of a whistle-blowing policy.
Section 'N (1) What is whistle-blowing? (2) Is whistle-blowing ethical? Section 'B' (1) What are the features of whistle-blowing? (2) Discussthe arguments for whistle-blower protection. (3) Discussthe arguments against whistle-blower protection? Section 'c' (1) What is whistle-blowing? Examine the features and conditions of whistle-blowing as an ethical programme in business.