Apparently UK leaders are the most reserved when it comes to whistleblowing – a correlation that seems to fit nicely with the stereotypical characteristics of Brits: stiff-upper lip, pragmatic curtain twitchers. We love gossip, particularly about another’s misfortune – feeling it is our natural right to know everything. But we withdraw from public criticism on the grounds that such flaunting is akin to triumphalism, which is a big no-no.
Yet 50% of senior employees said they would consider blowing the whistle on their company if they thought it necessary, and almost 10% have already taken their concerns to a regulatory body. So it appears that, despite all the gossiping, we are a nation with a strong moral backbone. Only 9% of those surveyed would be encouraged by a financial incentive, with the majority complaining that a financial benefit could open up the reward system to exploitation.
64% of respondents claimed they would report on a colleague if they thought they had committed a crime, which is higher than the 50% of senior employees who would report on their employer, but understandable when you consider that 57% said they believed their employer would react negatively, possibly even trying to have them fired, if they sounded the alarm.
Despite employees’ moral credentials, it appears that the obstacle in whistleblowing is the employer, who could threaten reprisals, rather than rewards, for those brave enough to come forward.
When it comes to whistleblowing, the disconnect between policies and reality is concerning. The majority of companies will be aware that negative treatment of an employee for whistleblowing is classed as discrimination, and that dismissal for reasons of whistleblowing is unlawful in the UK. Any company victimising or disciplining a whistleblower could end up before the tribunal courts and facing substantial fines.
Employers should welcome whistleblowing and look to protect those employees who report a problem. It should be known amongst staff that people can discuss issues without any unfair recrimination, and it is the responsibility of the employer to create an open culture where communications channels flow both ways.