Having worked in the addiction/recovery industry; unfortunately, I have witnessed a number of unethical behaviors within the workplace. At first I felt uncomfortable; I of course was the HR director. Was I part of the problem for not speaking up? Absolutely. Secondly, I found myself becoming mentally and physically drained from what I was witnessing, it was terrible. What should I do? I often thought.
Unethical problem is becoming a serious issue for many workplaces and not just the addiction/recovery arena. It can affect all facets of work life (i.e. sales, productivity, and public perception); Rick Bell in his article “Blowing the Whistle, Blowing Your Career?” noted that 63% of respondents regularly witnessed both minor and major ethical infractions and employees confront only half of the unethical behavior they witness at work.
Bell provided the following excuses employees gave for not blowing the whistle, however, these excuses were not mine, I was simply afraid of retaliation, losing my job:
- It might damage someone’s career
- It would have made the offender harder to work with
- The worker didn’t’ thin s/he would be taken serious
Eventually, my conscious got the best of me and I informed the CEO/owner of what I had been witnessing and how these actions could and would eventually affect the organization, needless to say after three months I was terminated, no reason given.
So how can an employee blow the whistle without blowing their career? Bell provides the following tips:
- Gather data – you’re more likely to encounter confusion and denial
- Avoid conspiracy- if you have an obligation to report an offense, do so promptly
- Begin by sharing your “good” intentions – Let the other person know you have his/her best interest in mind
- Share facts – lay out your concerns showing data, and do away with any judgment or accusation
Wondering what happened to my former employer? Well the company has been plagued with at least 6 lawsuits, turnover rate is in the double digits, a former colleague who ended up being employed with the company as the HR director was fired, basically she had the same concerns as I did and lastly the company is on the verge of bankruptcy.
One last note, in 1989 Congress passed the Whistleblower Protection Act, this Act prevents whistleblowers from losing their jobs and rewards then with 50% of the fines assessed by the courts.