The Truth About Corporate Whistleblowers

Disgruntled employees out for revenge. Rats. Opportunists. We’ve all heard the derogatory terms aimed at whistleblowers. And there’s a cruel irony at the core of the name-calling: since whistleblowers often operate quietly or anonymously, they are unable to correct the many common misconceptions about their character and motives.

In the aftermath of the financial crisis, however, interest in the ability of whistleblowers to deter misconduct has created a surge of studies and surveys that shed light on the average whistleblower. A whitepaper published this year by compliance organization The Network utilizes data from various sources, including the Ethics and Compliance Initiative’s National Business Ethics Survey, to provide a compelling snapshot of the average whistleblower. Here are just a few interesting details from The Network’s whitepaper:

  • 92% of whistleblowers report internally first. Furthermore, only 20% ever tell anyone outside their company and only 9% report to the government. Whistleblowers aren’t looking to punish companies. In fact, they most often speak out precisely because they care deeply about their workplaces.
  • Money is not the motivator. Research reveals that the primary reason whistleblowers go outside the company is a fear of retaliation – not a desire to collect a reward. According to the NBES survey, for instance, more than 1 in 5 respondents said they experienced retaliation after reporting internally and more than one-third of those who did not report internally said that fear of retaliation was the reason they chose not to do so.
  • Whistleblowers are good employees. Contrary to the stereotype of a resentful worker, in reality the average whistleblower is likely to be a well-regarded employee. Also, the whistleblower is likely to hold a high-level managerial or supervisor position within the company.

It has become increasingly clear that we must do all we can to protect and encourage truth-tellers. Standing at the crossroads of a pivotal time for corporate ethics, we have the opportunity to finally make progress against years of systemic corruption.

Named one of the top whistleblower practices/attorneys in the country by The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, NPR and The New Yorker
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