Whistle-Blowing Policies: Do the Benefits Outweigh the Risks?

Despite the opportunity for abuse that clearly presents itself in the Whistle-Blowing Policies adopted by some companies, it seems that, from a business standpoint, the benefits clearly outweigh the risks. In the example given from Rockland International, it is clear that the employee in question, “Art,” was using the company’s whistle-blowing policy knowingly and to his own advantage.

Clearly he had a long-term plan which he was keeping in his back pocket until the time he might need it…Well, that time came for him and he finally came forward with the information he had been gathering for over a year, which enabled Rockland International to address a problem much larger than an employee with an agenda, which was costing them a great deal of money and which they were seemingly unaware of.

Certainly Art should not be credited for his honesty and forward-thinking, because it is fairly certain that he was using this information solely as an insurance policy for himself, but the fact of the matter is that the situation he brought to light needed to be brought to light, and is much more significant than Art’s need to cover his tush. In the article it also said that the company had a policy regarding their whistle-blowing policy which stated that no employee will suffer “adverse personnel action” because of their actions and that efforts will be made by the company to protect the employee against backlash from coworkers.

Essentially, one cannot be fired for blowing the whistle. This is why Art thought this a fail-safe insurance policy; however, this pledge of the company’s that the employee still cannot be terminated for other reasons. In fact, in the example of Art, this illustrates more than anything that gathering up a case against another person will not save your own job, illustrating clearly that that is not the intention of the whistle-blowing policy.

(The downside of this being that some people with pertinent information won’t choose to come forward with it unless there is something “in it” for them. )  For the company, it’s a win-win situation. They can utilize their own employees to smoke out those who are abusing company privileges, while at the same time are not obligated to keep anyone on board who blew the whistle but who is still an under-performing employee.

The company, in order to cover their own behinds, just needs to be sure to document thoroughly all complaints against said employee, as well as all discussions with the employee regarding his/her performance and any disciplinary action taken or threatened. However, this is typically the case in any employment-termination situation, because nowadays there is such a constant prevalent threat of lawsuits over wrongful termination and discrimination that any company would have to abide by this careful following of procedure in order to take any action.

Of course there will be people who attempt to abuse the whistle-blowing policy and use it for their own gain, but this means nothing to the greater interest of the company because (a) the company is still, regardless of the whys, receiving information about employee behaviors that they need to effectively address them, and (b) the company can still terminate the whistle-blower for other reasons (which would not be in defiance of the company’s pledge on whistle-blowing) without repercussion (related to the whiste-blowing, anyway).

So long as those two needs for the company are met, what should the company care what the employees’ intentions are when they come forward with pertinent and TRUE information regarding other employees’ practices? And it wouldn’t take the company much time or effort to establish authenticity of people’s claims. Therefore, the risks to the company are minimal, and the advantages far outweigh them.

Additionally, the whistle-blowing policy also acts as a form of self-governing—employees will always be on their best behavior if they believe someone else is constantly watching them to see if they do something wrong. In Case 5. 3, Ken Dryden might have felt an ethical dilemma as to what to do with the sneaky whistle-blower who was already marked for termination, but really the answer was pretty clear—Thanks for the information, but we still have to let you go (for entirely different reasons).