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Whsitle Blowing - a Dilemma

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Whistle Blowing - A Dilemma

Today's complex and decentralized organization gives rise to organizational needs for both loyalty and institutionalized whistle blowing. Because most organizations depend on computer systems that electronically store important data to perform crucial business functions, the integrity of these information systems is paramount. Securing company systems, however, is not always an easy task. It gives rise to a very tricky situation for employees which can make decision making a dilemma. This paper discusses the various aspects of whistle blowing and tries to look at it from the viewpoint of utilitarianism. It also throws light on different ways loyalty can be interpreted and lays out guidelines for employees to consider when blowing the whistle.

Bowie (1982) defines whistle-blowing as "the act of an employee informing the public on the immoral or illegal behavior of an employee or supervisor." Whistle blowing is a controversial organizational issue. On the positive side, whistleblowers can help organizations correct unsafe products or working conditions and curb fraudulent or wasteful practices. Conversely, whistleblowers may threaten an organization's authority structure, cohesiveness, and public image (Weinstein 1979). Despite the problems, there is an increased interest on the part of managers in the issue of whistle blowing and how to handle such incidents.

Whistle blowing can be external, internal, personal and impersonal. It is internal where the whistle blower talks to people higher up in the organization or external where it is reported to the media, enforcement agencies or public interest groups (Weiss, 2006). It is personal if harm is reportedly done only to the whistle blower and impersonal if harm observed is done to another. The act of blowing the whistle by an individual is sometimes considered as being disloyal to the organization or company that he or she is attached with. The generally prevailing view of the whistle blower within business, on the part of the management and colleagues, is that this person is a traitor to the organization (DeGeorge, 1985). Business corporations anticipate the possibility of disloyalty by requiring employees to sign confidentiality agreements, assenting to the principle that the business of the corporation is the business of the corporation (Grant, 2002).Whistle-blower violated their role as loyal agents of the corporations and betrays their employees and coworkers. Bok (1981) identified three central elements of whistle blowing - dissent, breach of loyalty and accusation.

Whistle blowing as an ethical issue - Whistle blowing entails an ethical dilemma as the individual considering becoming a whistle blower is torn between two competing loyalties:

* Loyalty to the corporation and

* Loyalty to society or the law or some higher morality.

One problem is that whistle blowers always experience retaliation, ranging from being fired to being vilified. Society recognizes that there is a need for whistle blowing; the need to expose corruption and wrongdoing, and legal structures have been developed to encourage and protect the whistle blower, showing that society recognizes this as a socially valuable act. Inherent in any discussion of the matter is a comparison and conflict of responsibilities to themselves, the organization, and society, as well as to each other. The whistle blower in a sense challenges this relationship by accusing the employer of having abrogated his or her responsibility, and the employer in turn complains that the employer is doing precisely that by revealing confidential matters, true or not. The law says that revealing the truth is socially valuable and that both parties have a responsibility to do so, while revealing false information on either side is to be punished. Freedom and responsibility go hand in hand.

Loyalty depends on ties that demand self-sacrifice with no expectation of reward, e.g., the ties of loyalty that bind a family together. The second is that the relation between a company and an employee does not involve any surrender of self-interest on the part of the company, since its primary goal is to maximize profit. Indeed, although it is convenient, it is misleading to talk of a company having interests. Since, then, the relation between a company and an employee does not fulfill the minimal requirement of being a relation between two individuals, two reciprocally self-sacrificing individuals, it is felt that it is a mistake to suggest the employee has any duties of loyalty to the company. Loyalty does not imply that we have a duty to refrain from reporting the immoral actions of those to whom we are loyal. An employer who is acting immorally is not acting in their own best interests and an employee is not acting disloyally in blowing the whistle, in reality, the argument can be made that the employee who blows the whistle may be demonstrating greater loyalty than the employee who simply ignores the immoral conduct, as he is attempting to prevent his employer form engaging in self-destructive behavior.

Second, loyalty requires that, whenever possible, in trying to resolve a problem we deal directly with the person to whom we are loyal. Thus, for example, a father might be loyal to a child even though the child is guilty of stealing from him, but this would not mean that the father should let the child continue to steal. Similarly, an employee

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