The Whole Truth

It is important to distinguish between lying and not telling the whole truth. Sometimes what we think of as the truth is actually just what we wish would could say. For example, telling someone they look terrible or gave a poor presentation may not always be the best thing to do. It is important to consider the context and determine if telling all would effect positive change. If the person who gave a poor presentation is someone who could take some constructive criticism from you it would be best to tell them what they did wrong so they could do better. However, if that person is a manager several levels above you who would not gain anything from hearing your opinion, it is probably better to let someone else be the person to tell them the truth.

A whistleblower is often thought of as someone who is protecting the public from a company. However, a whistleblower is usually protecting the company as well. Whistleblowers do not always expose simply unethical conduct, it is normally something that is illegal. Illegal things have legal consequences that hurt the company if they are not corrected. In the case of the Enron Whistleblower, Watkins was acting to protect the company from itself. She was right. You can only perpetuate a shell game for so long before it all blows up and destroys the company. I think that makes most whistleblowers team players. They are team players with the courage to say hard things for the betterment of the company.

Most of the time we tell the truth without even thinking about it. However, there are times when telling the truth can be very difficult. These are usually the situations where it is the right thing to do but we fear negative repercussions. Confronting your boss is very nerve-racking. I had a situation where my company was about to do something that broke the law and management was not aware that they were going to be breaking the law. I had to make the decision to tell them that what they were going to do would violate the law and expose them to very significant liability if they were caught. That was a very difficult conversation because management took it very poorly and decided to react by in effect retaliating against employees by taking away a commonly used benefit. They actually tried to make the case that they had the moral high ground because their position was “right.” They “retaliated” to make things “fair” since the law did not line up with what they wanted to do. I felt that their reaction was unreasonable. It seemed like the reaction of a child who is told that they cannot ride their bike in the street when there are cars who then decides that if the street is off limits they will never ride a bike again. I was baffled by their reaction but also relieved that their retaliation was not against me specifically.

Personally, I find it difficult to confront a boss with news they will not like. Exactly how difficult it is depends on the level of trust that exists between you. Some people are happy to have someone tell them what they need to do differently to comply with the law, make their employees safer, or protect their consumers. However, there are others who are intentionally breaking the law or find it convenient to do whatever they want. Those people are very hard to talk to. In those situations I think it is wise to weigh the possible benefit against the probable consequences. Getting fired because the company is actually using red dye #5 in the products labeled red dye #6 may not be worth the risk. However, getting fired because the company is actually keeping child workers as slaves in their off shore factories is worth the personal injury your own family would sustain from alerting the public.

“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue, hands that shed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked schemes, feet that are quick to rush into evil, a false witness who pours out lies and a person who stirs up conflict in the community” (Pro. 6:16-19). You must decide if becoming a whistleblower will stir “up conflict in the community” or prevent evil from prevailing. The only way for a Christian to know the difference is by having a close relationship with God and understanding His heart.

References

“Enron Whistleblower Testifies Against Ex-Chairman” by Wade Goodwyn found at: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5282194

Holy Bible. New international version. (1984). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

 

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