At a time when there is so much controversy, uncertainty, mistrust, and confusion, it is hard to know what is real and what is true. When there is a lot of money, power, and agenda on the line, people will do and say just about anything to protect their interests. And once caught in a lie, or being called out for providing misinformation, those with the most to lose double down on their mischievous, conniving, and deceitful behavior. But what can we do? We may think we know the truth, but without having that inside information, behind the scenes access, or proof, many leaders, industries, and businesses keep right on deceiving the very people they have an obligation to protect.
There are people we can rely on. The people who are behind the doors of these entities, those having access to the inner workings, involved with the business activities, and possibly even part of the wrongdoing. These are the people that have the answers we need. These are the individuals that can shed light on the truth. These are the people that can gather evidence and supply the proof. And these are the people who can save others from unnecessary harm, or even death.
These people are whistleblowers. A whistleblower is “one who reveals something covert or who informs against another, especially an employee who brings wrongdoing by an employer or by other employees to the attention of a government or law enforcement agency” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).
You can imagine the repercussions one might face when speaking out against the company or organization they work for. With so much at stake, businesses and organizations have strong motivations to prevent an employee from sharing information that may reflect poorly on them. This puts whistleblowers in a position where they may face retaliation, “such as sudden extreme increase in workloads, having hours cut drastically, making task completion impossible or otherwise bullying measures” (Wikipedia).
Because of the risks a whistleblower takes by speaking out, there have been numerous laws put in place to protect them. The United States Department of Labor has even set up The Whistleblower Protection Program. It is critical that individuals feel safe and protected when speaking out about the wrongdoings of any organization. They need to be able to go outside the organization with their information, as any person involved with that organization could be motivated to suppress the information in order to protect their livelihood.
People do strange things to protect their jobs, their income, and their organizations. Good people may overlook the shortcomings of a company, not realizing or admitting to themselves the seriousness of such neglect. Many people feel that if they are not the one lying or doing the unethical act themselves, then they are not the problem. They may look the other way, ignore it, or dismiss the wrongdoing because they are not the one doing it.
The weight of ignoring wrongdoing within your organization is heavy. It takes a toll. The number of people speaking out is growing. The SEC received approximately 7,000 whistleblower tips in 2020, over 30% more than the previous two years. If you are witnessing unethical, immoral, illegal, or corrupt activity within your organization, it is imperative you speak out. You need to share the information you have. Whether it is in journalism, pharmaceuticals, medicine, nursing homes, or any large or small business, the safety, the well-being, and even the lives of others may depend on your courage to step forward and speak the truth.
It was whistleblowers that helped expose Merck’s drug Vioxx, which killed tens of thousands of people. It was whistleblowers that exposed the FDA’s neglect in allowing that to happen. It was whistleblowers that helped bring down the corrupt tobacco industry. The bottom line is that we need more whistleblowers right now. We need courageous individuals to gather hard evidence, step forward, and share what they know. Nothing is more important than the truth. If you’ve got it, please share it.