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Why are whistleblower calls confidential? The common answer is: to protect the whistleblower.

I agree with the above answer and am profoundly disturbed with the concept. If the whistleblower is telling the truth and is correct with what they are asserting it is very disturbing they need to be protected.

Personal Experiences?

Have you ever felt that you wanted or wished you could make a whistleblower call? What put you in that position? Were you:

  • Marginalized because you disagreed with a leadership position?
  • Pressured to do something you felt was wrong?
  • Moved off a project or to a new position because you raised concerns?

In short, you were unable to overcome the inertia of the culture of your organization to be heard. You likely felt helpless trying to correct a clear wrong.

Workplace Culture Classics

Here are several extreme examples of an organizational culture that resulted in grave consequences:

The Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster – NASA officials pressured individuals to say it was safe to launch.

Well Fargo – Employees opened thousands of unauthorized bank accounts to meet sales goals.

Enron – Created off the books companies to hide losses from investors and the board

Volkswagen – Created software to intentionally report erroneous emission readings during testing

The culture created by leadership was a significant influence in each of the above incidents. All of the events carried great costs to individuals, families, colleagues, clients, communities, and organizations. Good people who knew their actions were wrong, went against their better judgment and contributed to the disasters.

In every case, the leader’s imparted influence directly and indirectly to support their position. When investigators revealed the flawed culture created by the leaders, those responsible engaged in; obfuscation, belittling, scapegoating, and lying.

Investigations revealed people did push back, attempt to sound warnings and bring the issues to the forefront, without success. Those individuals were marginalized, discredited, and many times punished. They felt powerless as their actions could not penetrate the culture and make the desired difference. The organizational culture was too powerful.

Your Organization

What are the chances someone in your organization wishes they could make a whistleblower call? I am serious. Is there someone in your organization trying to be heard that the culture is silencing?

What is the culture you have set for your organization?

Considerations for establishing and evaluating your culture.

Use the diagram below for reference.

diagram showcasing internal and external actions

Externals may be the daily pressures of your personal and professional life such as; project budget, work schedule, your commute, lack of sleep, health concerns, your work environment, you boss, colleagues, schedule pressure, etc., name more if you like. Some are big arrows some are small. Add your own and give them the relative size they are for you.

Internals are those factors that allow you to push back against your environment. They may be items such as; education, experience, health, values, respect from colleagues, family support, personal mission, policy and procedures, your team, etc. Add your own and give them the relative size they are for you.

The actions arrow in the diagram pointing out to the right are the resulting actions and behaviors influenced by the inputs.

Congratulations, you just put together a simple model for analyzing your environment and taking action. Consider the instance above when you felt you wanted be a whistleblower. What forces were impinging on you and what action did you take?

That analysis should tell you something.

Are You an Influence for Good?

Change your perspective and put yourself in the shoes of someone you work with. Evaluate the arrow you are for that individual. Are you a large external arrow that exerts a negative force? Or, are you an influence that reinforces the individual’s internal arrows? What is your contribution to the environment your team operates in?

How do your arrows pressure team members?