Whistleblowingin the Public Service
Whistleblowingin the Public Service
Today,the risk of corruption is heightened in environments where reportingunlawful activity is not supported or protected. Thus, there isincreasing need to provide ways for people to raise their concernsregarding misconduct. According to Arszułowicz & Gasparski(2011), whistle-blowing in the public service represents anindividual’s understanding that the actions of his or herorganization or employer are unlawful and interfere with thecitizens’ rights. However, the issue is subject to controversy assome claim that whistleblowers are moral people who are willing tosacrifice their career development to expose the practices that arefraudulent and harmful to the public safety. On the contrary, othersimply that these individuals are just disgruntled employees whorecklessly and maliciously accuse their colleagues or employers toattain selfish goals (Arszułowicz & Gasparski, 2011). Despitethe opposing views, the public officials must consider the issueobjectively due to the positive and negative consequences for theemployees, citizens, and the organization. Whistle-blowing isimportant because it helps improve performance, promote ethicalenvironments, and maintain fairness in the workplaces. Nevertheless,the agencies should be careful to limit negative whistle-blowingbecause it can harm their publicity, eliminate trusts, and disruptthe chain of command.
Whistle-blowingin public office creates a possibility of improvement. There is acontinued problem of immoral conduct in the workplaces. Currently, itis almost impossible to watch the news or read a newspaper withoutlearning of a scandal in the government (Arszułowicz &Gasparski, 2011). However, there is a possibility that many othercases of unlawful activities do not make the headlines. On the otherhand, the employees can access up-to-date information regarding theirworkplaces thus, they are usually the first to recognize anymisconduct. Hence, whistle-blowing guarantees that the problemsencountered are solved within the company before the civil servantsfeel as though they must seek outside help. Moreover, unethicalactions can only be corrected if the administration is aware of it(Arszułowicz & Gasparski, 2011). For example, the governmentagencies need to know about the internal problems before they becomefront page news and the public, particularly the media, start takingthings out of context. Besides, the companies can learn of anywrongdoings such as bribery before they take place or destroy theirreputation. It will make it easy for the management to utilizeeffective measures that will prevent such unlawful acts fromreoccurring thus, safeguard their integrity (Brown et al., 2014).
Additionally,whistle-blowing creates the potential for government organizations topromote ethical work environments. Many public leaders expressconcern about the morality of their staff, but they lack the means tochange it while following the already enacted policies.Alternatively, some administrators explain the standards of conduct,but they seem to make little difference in the employees’ actions(Brown et al., 2014). Therefore, one of the best solutions is to usewhistle-blowing guidelines to reinforce the ethics codes byinstitutionalizing the procedures the employees can use to sharetheir ethical concerns and the process through which the organizationresponds. Such measures can improve the moral environment in theworkplaces by increasing the civil servants’ confidence that theirissues will be taken seriously without retaliation (Brown et al.,2014).
Moreover,whistle-blowers ensure that their agencies and superiors maintainfairness. Most organizations develop various measures regardingrecruitment, promotion, performance appraisal, and compensation topromote equality. However, sometimes even these policies areviolated thus, causing partiality (Brown et al., 2014). On the otherhand, employees are always in the best position to recognize thedeficiencies and problems before any damage can be done. As such,whistle-blowing makes sure that the administration will be concernedabout possible policy violations or unlawful activities. Besides, itwill ensure that employees’ right are respected (Brown et al.,2014).
Whistle-blowingcan lead to substantial changes and facilitate reforms in thegovernment agencies. The public service providers should acknowledgeemployees to speak up because it is an important source ofinformation that may point out serious risks, corruption, orpotential fraud (Cho & Song, 2015). Every organization desirehonesty from their staff because it allows for absolute dedication tothe company’s success and mission. Thus, speaking up encourages theadministration to promote clear communication and transparentstructure. Hence, it can protect the citizens’ interests whilemaintaining a good reputation (Cho & Song, 2015). For example, ifa public servant proposes policies that may violate people’s rightsor result in wastage of taxpayers’ money, his or her colleagues canreport such issues to protect the citizens. Then again, thewhistleblowers make the people aware of unethical acts, which givethe companies the opportunities to save their reputation by holdingthe violators accountable (Cho & Song, 2015). Besides, it addsscrutiny and media attention to a particular agency, which deterssimilar actions from other organizations because they are aware ofthe repercussions. Although one whistleblower might not change allcompanies, the collective impact of their efforts can bring overallreforms in the government (Cho & Song, 2015).
However,whistle-blowing creates challenges for the service providers. In mostof the agencies, speaking up on disagreement and debating theorganization’s business in public is acceptable and desirable.Nonetheless, it is also important to maintain the confidentiality ofsome activities taking place within those companies (Harutyunyan &Schultz, 2015). For example, exposure of sensitive data aboutemployment or firing decisions can unnecessarily harm an individual.Therefore, as much as the board members or the council’s views maydiffer on policy issues, some of the matters should remain privatewithin the agency if the problem does not arise to the level ofmisconduct (Harutyunyan & Schultz, 2015).
Onthe other hand, whistleblowers call attention to abuses of power bythe decision-makers in the government. However, they may be dishonestin their motives and accusations, which can cause unnecessarydisruptions in the workplace or harm the people who are wrongfullyaccused. Furthermore, some employees might take advantage of theinformation to get promotion or compensation they do not deserve(Harutyunyan & Schultz, 2015). For example, there have beensituations when the contribution of the whistleblowers has propelledpeople into higher offices and earned the respect of the citizens.Moreover, any unethical activities, if publicly revealed, reflectnegatively on the government’s integrity that warrants forinvestigations into the organization’s activities. Thus,whistle-blowing can result in expensive and time-consuming legal andcriminal proceedings, which wastes resources that could otherwise beused to serve the public (Harutyunyan & Schultz, 2015).
Furthermore,whistle-blowing challenges confidence within an organization.Companies prefer their staff members to use the internalcommunication systems if they disagree with the activities takingplace in their departments or the agency. Hence, it gives theadministration the opportunity to monitor its internal performancebefore they can publicly declare they have a problem (Hertsgaard,2016). Consequently, whistle-blowing breaks down trust between themanagement and the staff, which creates tension and challengeseffective working relationships. Additionally, subordinates speak upwhen they feel as though the administration do not take theirconcerns seriously. Other employees bypass the chain of command andleak the information to the media due to fear of repercussion foracting against the agency’s interests, which may influence otherstaff members to follow the same process. Hence, if the workers forma habit of ignoring the chain of command when communicating issues,it will negative affect the critical system of authority andmanagement (Hertsgaard, 2016).
Onthe other hand, the whistleblower must determine if the behavior heor she is exposing includes actual offenses or if it is just a policydisagreement. Conversely, the information presented may constituteclassified data, which means that the whistleblower will facedisciplinary action that discourages other employees from speakingup. Then again, colleagues or superiors may retaliate against thosewho report unlawful activities (Hertsgaard, 2016). To some extent,some public agencies consider whistle-blowing as treachery or spying.Accordingto recent statistics, 51 percent of the whistle-blowing incidentsresulted in external inspections of the companies involved and 22percent in criminal investigations. On the other hand, 62 percent ofthe whistleblowers lost their job, 18 percent were transferred orfelt harassed, and 11 percent had their salaries or jobresponsibilities reduced (Cho& Song, 2015).Although the outcomes are not typical to every agency, they show thepossible consequences of whistle-blowing. Hence,it is necessary for the government to encourage their workers toreport misconduct, corruption, and fraud (Hertsgaard, 2016).
Furthermore,the public service agencies should encourage whistle-blowing bycreating a policy about reporting unethical or illegal practices.Providing protection for the whistleblowers supports an openorganizational culture where the civil servants are aware of how toreport any misconduct and confidence in the reporting process. It isnecessary to inform the employees the appropriate process they canuse to communicate their moral concerns internally before seekingoutside assistance (Hertsgaard, 2016). According to studies ongovernment employees, there is a significant link between the staff’sknowledge of appropriate internal channels and the possibility thatthey will report perceived misconduct. Research suggests that manypublic servants who report wrongdoings internally later seek helpoutside the company if they feel that their superiors areunresponsive. For that reason, the employees must believe that theirissues will be seriously considered and investigated. Additionally,the whistleblowers must be assured that they will not sufferreiteration (Hertsgaard, 2016).
Inconclusion, whistle-blowing is one of the most efficient strategiesto eliminate corruption, promote ethical work environments, andmaintain responsibility in government organizations. The dataprovided by the civil servants plays an essential role in resolvingcorruption issues because it is often hard to identify problems fromoutside the agencies. Besides, employees can easily accessinformation about any unethical activities thus, they are in thebest position to promote the citizens’ interests. Therefore, theadministration can correct the issues and curb future incidences offraud or corruption. Furthermore, it promotes ethical and fairworkplaces. However, whistle-blowing can also result in adverseeffects on the organization. At a time when most people demandaccountability from the government officials, whistle-blowing canfurther taint the reputation and integrity of the public serviceproviders. Nonetheless, the whistleblowers can encounter retaliationsuch as harassment from the colleagues and superiors, which deterother employees from speaking up against illegal activities. Hence,the administration should implement policies that clearly show theemployees the process they should follow whenever they have acomplaint. It is evident that despite all the efforts given to moralpractices, most government offices have a long way before everycompany can be considered ethical. Consequently, public agenciesshould not dismiss the idea of whistle-blowing instead, they oughtto view it as a way of promoting positive adjustments in theorganizations.
Arszułowicz,M., & Gasparski, W. (2011). Whistleblowing:In defense of proper action.New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.
Brown,A. J., Moberly, R. E., Lewis, D., & Vandekerckhove, W. (Eds.).(2014). Internationalhandbook on whistleblowing research.Cheltenham, New York: Edward Elgar.
Cho,Y. J. & Song, H. J. (2015). Determinants of whistleblowing withingovernment agencies. PublicPersonnel Management,44(4),450-472.
Harutyunyan,K. & Schultz, D. (2015). Combating corruption: the development ofwhistleblowing laws in the United States, Europe, and Armenia.InternationalComparative Jurisprudence, 1(2),87-97.
Hertsgaard,M. (2016). Bravehearts:Whistle-blowing in the age of Snowden.New York: Hot Books.