Business Ethics: Walk the Talk

I have worked in three different capacities as federal employee: military, civilian, and contractor. I have seen firsthand how difficult it can be to tell the truth. I have always chalked that up to not wanting to “rock the boat” in order to keep the job, especially with the turmoil our government has been in. However, after reading the Center for Investigative Reporting and Salon.com’s report on whistle blowers and the federal governments lack and all out refusal to protect them my thinking has changed. I recently read an article from years ago of a senator’s aid that was labeled a whistle blower and the weight of the federal government came down upon her. She was shamed, threatened, and eventually ran out of federal service and politics all together!

So the question comes: Do you think it is a good idea to always tell the truth?

Good idea? Not always, however, the truth is always needed and if we do not speak out when there is some illegal, immoral, or downright wrong that is being done is seen; who will? Suffice it to say “For there is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known” (Luke 12:2 NKJV). There are times when discretion is needed with the truth. Silence is consent, however, just as Jesus did, we need to have the wisdom to know when to speak and when to keep our mouths shut. It would have done nothing more than to give His accusers more ammunition to “try” Him with had He spoken and refuted their claims. However, because of His silence, He was refusing to give them anything more to try Him with. Zechariah 8:16 NKJV “These are the things you shall do: Speak each man the truth to his neighbor; Give judgment in your gates for truth, justice, and peace”.

Team Players and Whistleblowers

There can be two types of “team player”. The first type is considered a “yes man/woman” meaning whatever the company wants this individual does. They also do not question supervision. If supervision asks or says something these individuals simply do it. They are a “go with the flow, don’t rock the boat” type of individual. The second type is when one works with his or her fellow co-workers in an amiable way in order to make their work go as smoothly as possible. This is a give and take way of conducting ones work.

A whistle blower is someone who simply sees wrongs and says something about it. The “tattle tale” type of whistle blower is what most thinks of when they hear the term. However, as Center for Investigative Reporting/ Salon.com point out, the ethically and morally driven individual is most likely the ones who are labeled a whistle blower and receives repercussions.

These two could be the same, however, if the situation, work, or environment is found to be unsafe, illegal, immoral, or unethical. This would allow for a true team player to be the whistleblower as well. That individual would be protecting themselves, their co-workers, and ultimately their employer.

How to stand up to a boss who is demonstrating unethical behavior and what might the repercussions be?

Standing up to a boss who is demonstrating unethical conduct can be difficult and I’ve found working in a union-ized environment and as a federal employee can make it that much more difficult. For me, personally, when I first see my boss or someone in an authoritative position demonstrating unethical behavior, if possible, I do not speak up right away. I take time to process what I am seeing and attempt to step back in order to get a larger picture. I also seek counsel through prayer, in the company’s policies and procedures, from the union representative (which usually goes nowhere), from trusted family and friends, and of course through prayer.

A small portion of what happened to me, personally, when I stood up as the whistleblower was, I was suspended, investigated, demoted, reprimanded, placed back on probation, and a host of other things. However, and unfortunately, most that are labeled as whistle blowers get treated much worse. As the center for Investigative Reporting stated some were fired, literally beaten, “black listed”, forcibly placed in a psychiatric hospital, and some had pensions and benefits revoked.

In spite of all that I have always held the personal belief that I don’t mind rocking the boat because I can swim. If something is wrong or someone is demonstrating conduct that is not right it is within our right and place to stand up and say something and trust the Lord will take care and provide for us. We may be persecuted for saying what we say but God takes care of His own!

-Eli