Organizational Ethics: Encouraging whistle-blowing within organizations

From the article, ‘For One Whistle-Blower, No Good Deed Goes Unpunished’, it is certain that whistle-blowing to external entities including government agencies and the media can be detrimental to whistle-blowers, fraud-spotters, or truth-tellers.

In this particular case, we note that Mr. Maris, the whistle-blower, is sued and later fired by his employer (Bank of America) for reporting about the financial status of Biovail, a pharmaceutical company that fails to achieve its estimated earnings due to fraud and stock manipulation within the organization (Eisinger, 2011, para. 1-5).

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Accordingly, this case shows the risk involved in whistle-blowing to external entities even in the presence of legal protection. Here, both the whistle-blower and the organization may face legal battles, which end up tarnishing the organization’s image and the career of the whistle-blower. Furthermore, the whistle-blower risks being shunned by workmates, besides being exposed to close supervision or being alienated.

Such unfavorable experience leaves one wondering whether whistle-blowing is an important activity to pursue or a hazardous one. In this essay, we highlight the most appropriate changes to ethical standards to resolve the issues discussed in the preceding section.

To prevent whistle-blowing to external entities such as the media, there is the paramount need for organizations to encourage internal whistle-blowing.

In this way, an organization can be least assured that employees will be hesitant in discussing unethical practices within their organization with external entities. Furthermore, when internal whistle-blowing systems are in place, employees are encouraged to discuss illegal issues within the organization with the top-management, thus giving room for speedy resolution before they cause damage to both the organization and the whistle-blower.

As a result, the major objective of internal whistle-blowing should entail encouraging employees to freely talk about unethical issues with internal authorities to eliminate the risks involved in exposing such issues to third parties. Moreover, the presence of an internal whistle-blowing mechanism demonstrates the organization’s commitment to existing codes of conduct.

However, it is worth-noting that some ill-motives or barriers to internal whistle-blowing programs can also be as detrimental to both parties involved as in the case of external whistle-blowing.

Here, cases of lack of trust between the top-management and the employees, unwillingness of the employees to divulge on illegal issues within the organization with others, misguided solidarity with the wrong-doers, fear of retaliation and close supervision, and fear of alienation are just but a number of major barriers to successful implementation of the internal whistle-blowing program.

Therefore, these issues must be considered and resolved by the relevant authorities before embarking on developing the internal whistle-blowing program.

Subsequently, the process of developing an internal whistle-blowing program or culture should entail a step-by-step protocol that begins with creating a policy.

Here, the policy should incorporate official mechanisms for whistle-blowing including hotlines and mailboxes that do not require senders to leave their names for protection. Furthermore, the policy should outline a clear chain of command and communication processes for internal whistle-blowing. Accordingly, the policy should be designed in such a way that it reflects the existing code of ethics.

The subsequent steps in this process should include seeking endorsement from other management processes including the CEO, publicizing the organization’s commitment toward ensuring the success of the program, investigating claims and making appropriate follow-ups, and finally, assessing the whistle-blowing system to ensure that it does not overrun the existing organizational ethics and values.

Overall, the increasing public scrutiny of organizational activities and behavior should worry the management processes within any organization, and therefore, the only way out is to encourage openness within the organization itself to avoid leaking of damaging information to outsiders.

Reference

Eisinger, J. (2011). For one whistle-blower, no good deed goes unpunished. Business

Ethics-The Magazine of Corporate Responsibility. Retrieved from
www.business-ethics.com/2011/06/01/1746-for-one-whistle-blower-no-good-deed-goes-unpunished/