Whistleblowers: What do They Mean for Your Company?

Most organizations are staunchly opposed to corruption. And statistics have shown that fraud and other unethical behavior is often detected through tips – in such a case, a whistleblower has come forward, anonymously or otherwise, to report possible corruption. 

Knowing this, it is disheartening to remember that historically, whistleblowers have faced retribution, intimidation, and even termination at various organizations for trying to do the right thing. It's an unfortunate aspect of corporate culture that many business leaders are trying to change, knowing that tips are so important to catching corruption before it does maximum damage.

Worldwide watchdog organization Transparency International (TI) recently conducted a survey in Ireland of business leaders, with questions aimed to gauge the attitude toward whistleblowers. The survey found "positive attitudes but need for action by employers," according to TI. That's good news on the front end, since it signals a shift from the days of whistleblowers being ostracized by their superiors and/or their peers.

The following are some takeaways from the survey results:

  • More than nine out of ten [95%] employers said that it is in the interests of their organisation or industry sector for people to speak up about wrongdoing.
  • The number of employers supporting staff that reveal confidential information drops slightly to 91%.
  • A smaller number [79%] say that they would hire or consider hiring someone who had blown the whistle on wrongdoing in a previous job.
  • However, only 64% would encourage an employee to report wrongdoing where the disclosure might harm the reputation of their organisation.
  • The survey also indicates that the majority of employers [66%] have no procedures or policies in place to protect whistleblowers or to channel their reports to the appropriate person.

Commenting on the results of the survey, Minister Donohoe said: ‘It’s encouraging to see that employers have a generally positive outlook on whistleblowing. Nevertheless, these results suggest that much more needs to be done to raise awareness of the Protected Disclosures Act and to ensure that organisations have measures in place to act on reports from their staff and make sure that whistle-blowers don’t suffer as a result of their disclosures. A primary aim of the legislative framework that the Government put in place for Protected Disclosures in 2014 is to ensure that workers feel safe when speaking up’.

As TI states in a press release, "the survey also shows that organisations need to work on assuring their staff that reports of wrongdoing will be acted upon and whistleblowers will be protected. Although 93% of employers state that a report of wrongdoing would be acted upon and their staff would not suffer as a result of doing so, less than half of all employees said they felt safe reporting a concern or believed that their reports would be acted on by their employer."

Overall, the survey shows strides toward a new era in fighting corruption and limiting the impact of fraudsters through education, awareness and reporting. Yet there is still a ways to go in converting new attitudes into positive action.