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What is Whistle Blowing ?
Whistle blowing refers to any time that a member of an organization (or a former member) tells someone else about an illegal or immoral practice, if the telling is done in the hope that someone will do something to change the practice. In the great majority of cases, employees tell someone within the organization and don’t want to cause any bad publicity for the organization—this is sometimes called internal whistle blowing, though we prefer to call this internal reporting.
When organizations punish or discourage internal reporting, bad practices typically get worse, until someone—often motivated by conscience—feels they must notify the press, or a government agency. This is known as external whistle blowing, and it can mean serious problems for the organization.
From an Ethical Systems perspective, internal reporting is vital to the health of organizations. Companies that don’t make it easy for their employees to report small problems internally are likely to find themselves facing much larger problems externally. But there’s a common problem in organizations: people who speak up, even internally, are sometimes seen as traitors, or as people who are “not team players.” What can organizations do to overcome this problem and nurture a culture of trust in which everyone feels free to voice concerns?