In recent news, OSHA required JP Morgan Chase to reinstate a former employee. The operations manager was reportedly fired for escalating concerns over improper loan recording and his refusal to falsify a failed compliance test as “passing.” Greater than $200,000 in damages are owed to this whistleblower to make up for lost wages, legal fees, and unnecessary harm and suffering. Looks like SOX fit in this case.
In case you haven’t heard, Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) states that employers cannot legally retaliate against employees who take protective action. Literally, the writing’s on the wall all around us. Companies wallpaper the workplace with policy information about code of conduct, commitment to ethical practice, and contact details for suspected fraud reporting. Yet, retaliation continues to occur in some places because of deeply embedded organizational culture that reinforces such corporate dogma.
What about the writing that’s not on the wall? Policies and laws don’t protect us all of the time with 100% certainty. Whistleblowers face risk of being fired for technicalities or worse, cooked-up scenarios made to frame them for “justifiable” termination. Some may suffer humiliation, ostracizing, and defamation that pushes them to quit.
If you find your self dithering about whether or not to blow the whistle, follow the three D’s:
- DATA – Collect all of the data that you need in order to make an INFORMED choice. Policy and law is only part of the data; dig deeper. Has anyone at your company ever blown the whistle? What was the outcome? What are the unwritten norms and mores of your organization? Overall, how ethical is the culture and more importantly, how ethical are the top leaders? Ethical cultures require principled executives; a supportive mid-level manager won’t be much help if senior level leaders are dishonorable. Check for job openings elsewhere. Know and understand your health and financial benefits, important information in this decision-making process. Make a list of questions and try to answer all of them before the next step.
- DELIBERATE – Know your values and risks. This is not a black and white decision as simple as integrity vs. career suicide. Ponder what values make you who you are. Will you be able to live with yourself after telling or not telling?Everyone has a unique set of prioritized values based on his or her upbringing and experiences. What level of risk can you afford? There is a big difference between being married with no dependents and being single with 3 dependents and no supports.
- DECIDE – Ask yourself the ethical question and fill in the blanks. Is it ethically justifiable to (tell/not tell), given that (list everything from steps 1 and 2). Once you make your decision, stick to it.
Regardless of whether you blow the whistle or not, you are not alone and will need support. Check out this amazing resource: http://www.whistleblowersblog.org