HR Administration

Is Blowing the Whistle Blowing Your Career?

By Rick Bell

Dec. 11, 2013

You see a colleague doing something wrong: Not like inadvertently taking home a Sharpie wrong; something much more sinister.

Should you blow the whistle? Will your conscience allow it? While 63 percent of respondents regularly witness both minor and major ethical infractions, employees confront only half of the unethical behavior they witness at work, said Joseph Grenny, co-author of the book “Crucial Accountability.” The more often people choose to stay silent, the more likely it is that ethics will decline and companies will suffer severe consequences, he added.

Grenny’s list of excuses employees gave for not blowing the whistle include:

It might damage someone’s career.

It would have made the offender harder to work with.

The worker didn’t think he or she would be taken seriously.

Grenny also has tips to blow the whistle without blowing your career:

First, tend to your safety. If raising the issue to the offender directly will cause you harm, seek security, human resources or legal assistance.

Gather data. Given that you’re likely to encounter confusion and denial, gather all the data you can to help make your case.

Avoid conspiracy. If you have an obligation to report the offense, do so immediately. If the lapse is offensive but not reportable, confront the individual in a respectful but direct way.

Start by sharing your good intentions. Begin by letting the other person know you have his or her best interest in mind. This shows your purpose is not to question motives or authority, but to deal with a possible problem quickly.

Share your facts. Lay out the concern using data. And strip your explanation of any judgment or accusation.

Rick Bell is Workforce's managing editor. Comment below or email Follow Bell on Twitter at @RickBell123.

Rick Bell is Workforce’s editorial director. For comments or questions email


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