Before we look at an example of whistleblowing let us first consider whistleblower meaning. ‘Whistleblowing’ comes from the idea that an individual “blows the whistle’. We blow a whistle when we want to draw attention to something. Therefore, whistleblowing means to draw attention to something which is wrong or dangerous.
A definition of whistleblowing at work usually concerns raising a concern regarding the conduct of colleagues, managers and staff. It can also apply to third parties, such as customers or suppliers.
Is that the same as making a complaint?
When we first consider whistle blowing it seems similar to making a complaint but it is different.
Examples of whistle blowing include:
- a criminal offence, for example fraud
- someone’s health and safety is in danger
- risk or actual damage to the environment
- a miscarriage of justice
- the company is breaking the law, for example does not have the right insurance
- you believe someone is covering up wrongdoing
Complaints are personal grievances. This includes:
It is possible to report certain activities which overlap with personal grievances. For example, if an individual reports dangerous and unsafe working conditions this is both an organisational problem and a personal one for the individual working in that environment.
Examples of whistleblowing:
Third Party involvement
Andrew worked for a mayor retail company. He noticed senior colleagues were not correctly recording the stock and were taking items. He had good reason to believe they were then taking these items and selling them for personal profit.
Whilst what was happening was wrong, Andrew was reluctant to say anything. The people carrying out the theft were his seniors and they were threatening and aggressive towards staff. The atmosphere at work was unpleasant but Andrew knew he and could lose his job if he said anything. And worse than that they knew where he lived. Andrew was scared they would target him outside of work and make his life difficult.
Eventually Andrew contacted contacted a third party – his union – for advice. They alerted the company to the theft whilst keeping Andrew’s identity confidential. Security and procedures were tightened. Within weeks two individuals were caught red handed. The atmosphere at work improved significantly for all the staff.
Reporting to your line Manager
Joanne started a new job at a large restaurant chain. She was trained on how to prepare food hygienically and to avoid cross contamination.
Once Joanne was left with her co-workers she witnessed raw meats being prepared on chopping boards also used for cooked produce. She also saw meats regularly prepared on the same surfaces as vegetarian produce. Whilst she liked her new colleagues and did not want to be seen as a ‘snitch’ Joanne was very concerned by what she saw and the potential food poisoning threat it posed to the consumers.
Eventually Joanne reported her concerns to her line manager. The line manager kept Joanne’s identity confidential and reviewed CCTV from the kitchen. The CCTV confirmed Joanne’s concern. All staff were given renewed training and warned there would be regular spot testing carried out. Failure to comply with hygiene requirements would result in disciplinary action.
There are many other examples of whistleblowing. These examples give an idea of how it could impact on you and your organisation. Your organisation should have a whistleblower policy which will outline a whistleblower procedure to follow if you suspect wrongdoing.
Engage in learning provide whistleblowing training which explores what whistle blowing is, how the law protects whistleblowers and steps that can be taken if you suspect something within or outside your organisation.