Business Ethics – Whistle Blower
Whistle-blowing is the release of information by a member or former member of an organization that is evident of illegal conduct in or by the organization. Morality on the other hand can be defined as the concern with the distinction between right or wrong conduct. There are basically four categories of whistle-blowing in the organization. Whistle blowing can be internal, external, personal or impersonal. Internal whistle-blowing is where the matter is reported to an executive in the organization.
An external whistle-blowing is reporting the matter to external public interests groups, the media, or enforcement agencies. Personal whistle-blowing is defined as harm reportedly done only to the whistle-blower and impersonal whistle-blowing is harm observed as done to another. It does not matter what form the whistle-blowing is done in, a moral dilemma can occur when loyal employee observes the employer committing or assisting in an illegal or immoral act and thus would be forced to make moral decisions.
In making moral decisions, employees need to consider factors that may have both positive and negative results. These factors are to make sure the situation warrants whistle-blowing. One of these factors is, if serious trade secrets or confidential company property will be exposed the employee should also know the harm and calculated risk. The other factor is that the whistle-blower needs to examine their motives and verify then document their information, while making sure that the information sustains its place in the case of a hearing and court as well as there are a lot more guidelines to consider.
Whistle-blowing carries serious consequences and often involve decisions to be made among conflicting moral, legal, economic, personal, family and career demands and choices. It does require a lot of self-sacrifice to stand firm and tells the truth regardless of personal outcome. There is nothing morally wrong with whistle-blowing or the right to freedom and speech. Virtue theory requires an individual to personify integrity and courage (Adams, 2006; Bolsin et al. , 2005). However, whistle-blowing is legally wrong when the accusations are false and the motivation is not justifiable or accurate.
This can violate the basic virtues of honesty and courage. Two such conditions under which whistle-blowing should not protect freedom of speech against their employers are when divulging information about legal and ethical plans, practices, operations, inventions and other matters that should remain confidential that are necessary for the organization to perform its work efficiently. The other condition is when an employee’s personal accusations or slurs are irrelevant to questions about policies and practices that appear illegal or irresponsible.
Kant’s Categorical Imperative says, a person should choose to act only and only if he would be willing to have every person on earth in that same situation act exactly in that same way. Kantian theory directs or instructs people to act in universally accepted rules. In light of Kantian’s imperative, employers and employees should use this as a guide to carry out their functions of preventing, reporting and effectively and fairly correcting illegal and immoral actions, policies and procedures. Management cannot expect employees to be loyal to an organization that promotes or encourages wrong doing to its stakeholders.
Whether or not stakeholders are primary or secondary, they are directly or indirectly affected by the actions and goals of the organization. Whistle-blowing can also be looked at as a selfish act as well as a moral and legal act. Despite its outlook it should be the last resort. A more active goal or motive of the organization should be to hire, train and promote morally and legally sensitive and responsive managers to communicate efficiently and effectively for the benefit of all the stakeholders.
If both employer and employees follow Kant’s Categorical Imperative which is in nature goes with the principle of universalism which states that that the right thing must always be done, even if doing the wrong thing would do the most good for the most people. With these theories whistle-blowing can be mitigated in an organization. In most organizations, employees normally quickly adapt the norms and culture. If the organization is involved in illegal practices then more often than not whistle-blowing will be a major dilemma.
In order to avoid whistle-blowing, organizations need to practice legal acts and set examples that will uplift and promote the organization in a positive way. Every member in an organization is dependent on each other, especially those who are at total risk in terms of securities. The principles of Utilitarianism can also be applied to the issue of whistle-blowing. This theory believes that the act is morally right if it produces the greatest good for the greatest number of persons affected by it.
If the circumstances is however such where the employee decides to blow the whistle on an illegal conduct by another employer or by the organization then according to Richard DeGeorge, the whistle-blowing must fit all six of the conditions that makes the actions morally justified. The first two conditions are when the firm, through a product or policy, will commit serious and considerable harm to the public example; consumers or bystanders. The employer should report the firm and then when he or she identifies a serious threat of harm, then he or she should report it and state his or her moral concerns.