Policy And Ethics

Whistle-blowing is a tricky business.  We applaud someone who makes public something going on that is illegal or unethical…(kind of)  The trick is figuring out if it is really something that is illegal and/or unethical.  The other difficulty is often trying to figure out exactly HOW to go about blowing the whistle.  Whistle-blowers often are not deemed heroes right away – if ever.  Why?  

There are a lot of reasons for this.  But, I think on an ethical level at least, it is because in our society we have competing ethical principles.  Indeed, that is what a lot of this course has been all about.  We value privacy.  We also value loyalty.  Within organizations, we also teach reporting only to your immediate supervisor.  At home, we are taught to not “tattle”, and to mind our own business.  

All the while, we also teach that if something wrong is going on, and especially if we serve the public, we have a “duty” to stop it and/or report it.  I think the key in successful whistle-blowing lies in first trying to stop it before going public.  And, there is simply no getting around the considerable risk in doing that.  

There are whistle-blower protection laws in some states, and within some federal level jobs.  These laws are pretty complicated, and often have exceptions.  So, even with protections in place, your continued employment or the ability to successfully seek employment elsewhere is more than likely going to be compromised.  

The reality is, if you know something going on that could cause harm to others, or is just wrong or illegal, you do have a duty to try to stop it from happening.  However, there are some practical steps you probably need to take before going public.  As I said above, you do need to at least try to see if you can solve the problem internally.  You also need to document these efforts as well as document what you consider to be the wrong doing.  There might be something going on that is wrong, but management has no idea about it, or it might be a wrong interpretation of the facts on your part. 

It may also be prudent to seek the advice of an attorney, or at least do some research of the applicable laws.  

There are usually a lot of stakeholders in these situations, so careful consideration on your part is essential.  Depending upon what you decide, a lot of people could be affected both in a positive and negative way.  Thus, a lot is riding on you making the correct decisions. 

For this assignment, I would like for you to find either a detailed article or a video about a whistle-blower.  Preferably, I would like this to be a matter of large public interest.  (Alright, I know a lot of you are now thinking Edward Snowden.  Yes, me too.  🙂  However, in order for me not to get 16 assignments on the same interview with Mr. Snowden, let’s take him out of the running for this assignment.  Yes, he matters, but I would like for us to dig a bit more for some other whistle-blowers.)  

In order to be able to answer the questions I am asking for this assignment, the article or video will probably have to include an interview of the whistle-blower, or at least a very detailed account.  

At the top of your document, provide an active link that will take me directly to this video or article.

Please answer the following questions:

1.  Who is the whistle-blower (WB) and what was the situation in which he or she blew the whistle?  What organization/person(s) were exposed?  Just tell me the story a bit of what went on with this situation.  

2.  Thinking about the ENTIRE situation, list out ALL of the stakeholders involved in this situation.  Be sure and think about all of the main players and everyone within their “circles” affected by the situation.  

3.  Look at Exhibit 7.4 in our text.  

 A.  In your opinion, Did the WB verify all of the facts, search their soul, and exhaust the organizational  channels before blowing the whistle?  Explain your answers.

 B.  There are 6 questions our authors suggest should be asked and answered by the WB before he or she makes their decision.  One by one go through each of these questions, and describe whether or not your WB considered these questions.  Evaluate each question separately.

 C.  Do you believe your WB did the right thing?  Why or why not?  Should they have done anything differently?  

There is no minimum word count for this assignment.  Just be sure and answer each part fully and completely. 

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