Being a Whistleblower or a Team Player?

When asked if it is a good idea to always tell the truth, I often err on the side that it is best to tell the truth.  Yes, that means in all cases.  I frequently am heard quoting Psalms 15: 1, 4 (NIV) in order to back up my philosophy on this.  Does it mean that I always volunteer every detail of everything openly?  No.  Sometimes I require the correct question to be asked.  Is my reference of Scripture used out of context, most likely, yet it is still applicable.  I paraphrase it as follows – “How do you or I enter the Holy Hill? By keeping my oath, even when it hurts.”  This means that even in times where I may end up getting into trouble, I often volunteer the information to get whatever punishment out of the way.  Do I fib a little now and again?  Possibly, I am a fisherman.

Is there a difference between being a “team player” and a Whistleblower? As discussed by Scharfenberg (2007), whistleblowers are those who would report offenses committed by those who have been trusted with certain responsibilities.  Often it seems that this would revolve around financial accountability.  However, there are examples of other areas of whistleblowing.

Being a “team player” seems to be the common term for allowing certain unethical behavior to occur.  Most of the time, it would seem that this behavior, while expected, is worse after such an offense would be found out.  Team players would end up getting into just as much trouble as the offending party.

When might the two be one in the same?  The only time I could think of a team player being the same thing as a whistleblower would be if it were the “team’s” job to blow the whictle on certain types of behavior.  As mentioned by Rae and Wong (Rae & Wong, 2012), James Burke, CEO of Johnson & Johnson during the 1980s asked employees to report how the company was doing in regards to its credo.  In this case, by holding the company accountable, Burke required his employees to be whistleblowers.

When should someone consider stepping up and confronting a boss who is demonstrating unethical conduct? This depends on the situation.  If my boss’s actions were illegal or harmful to our patients, I would be required by law to inform someone.  However, my boss and her two bosses are Christians.  While I am pretty sure there are no perfect Christians, I would like to think that most of us would opt to choose legal and ethical business practices.  On the chance that one of us would not, I guess it would be important to report any illegal or harmful activities to either their bosses or the state.

What will be the consequences?  Once again, the consequences would depend on the manner in which the situation was handled.  If my boss was striking a patient, I would expect to be fired for not reporting the abuse.  However, if my boss was billing extra to patient insurances as a means to create a “departmental budget cushion” I would probably not be fired for not reporting it.  However, I would mention it to the boss who I found to be the culprit.  If I noticed it continuing, I would report it to their supervisor.  My boss is pretty receptive to criticism.  If she were doing something blatantly wrong, she would want to be called on it.

However, I was in a situation many years ago where I called a boss on her encouraging nurses to be abusive to their staff, including me.  When she told me that I could deal with the way the nurses swore and the things they said or go find another job, I told her that her actions were wrong.  I reported her to her boss, the Director of Nursing at the facility I worked at.  This manager pursued me and had two particular nurses tell me I was worthless and cursing at me repeatedly for the next year and a half until I finally told one to leave me alone and that she should never question if I am abandoning my patients.  I was then fired for insubordination.  I walked out of that job on my last day and sighed a great breath of relief, which is when I realized that I cannot work for a company that is willing to treat their staff like that, and I have never done so since.

Bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what the consequences are for blowing a whistle.  Especially if it is just a J-O-B.  Jobs are (less recently) a dime a dozen, and can be replaced while keeping one’s integrity intact.  We should always seek to maintain our integrity, even when those meant to guide or supervise us may not.  If keeping a job means sacrificing our integrity, then we need to seriously consider the value of that job.



Davidson, J. (2012, September 28). House approves federal whistleblower protections. Retrieved from The Washington Post:

Rae, S. B., & Wong, K. L. (2012). Beyond integrity: A Judeo-Christian approach to business ethics. Grand Rapids: Zondervan.

Scharfenberg, C. (2007). Federal “whistleblower” protection system is anything but. Center for Investigative Reporting.




Leave a Comment

  1. Tressie LeBlanc says:

    Hi Kevin, I understand what you are saying about a teamplayer is just as guilty as the offending party. I’m not sure I am in total agreement. I think that a team player is one who actually does what is best for the welfare of the members of the team/company. Is unthecial behavior in the best interest of the business, maybe some think so and in the short term it may appear to be so, but over the long haul it is always in the best interest of all concerned if ethical behavior is the rule of business.

  2. Alexandra Helber says:

    I agree and disagree with what you’re discussing about being a whistle blower or a team player. A team player is someone who plays and works well with his or her team members, and does what is right for the team. A whistle blower is someone who exposes something wrong that is going on within a company or organization. Either way a great team player could be a whistle blower. If a company or member of the team is doing something that is wrongful to someone or the company, then a team player needs to step up and address this issue or tell a higher team member. I think even though you reported the issue you were having with the Director of Nursing, possibly going even further may have helped. Since the issue was not taking care of and continued until the day you left, this was a very unethical act on this nursing department, and may continue to new incoming nurses. Overall, whether someone is consider a whistle blower or team player, both individuals need to be able to address an issue within a company.

  3. Tom Omdal says:

    You make some good points and produce an entertaining read. You certainly hinted at it, but I’m not sure that you came out and said it…being a whistle blower can be both the same thing and completely unrelated things. The team player aspect is calling someone out when they have requested to be called out. Unrelated to whistleblowing, however, a team player is generally someone who works with others towards the goals of the company. Two goals for every company ought to be transparency and honor in their dealings. If this is the case, a whistle blower would be a team player.

    As a whole, I think this is a rough couple of characteristics to compare. I don’t think it should be an either or comparison, because they are not equal. It should be more of a both and scenario. If you have to be one or the other, there is likely something wrong with the organization. In which case, the whistleblower is probably the best option.

  4. Eric C. Rummel says:

    I agree with the Sharfenberg definition of Whistleblower you shared, but disagree with your initial description of a team player. If a company has established core values that include integrity a team player could be the person that holds accountability for adherence to the values. It really depends on what “team” the team player is on – the team committing the violations or the team upholding the core values.

    You suggest that confronting unethical behavior depends on the situation. Boa, Buzzell, & Perkins (2007) suggest “it’s crucial for a leader to act on core values, not convenient ones” (p. 162). I think it is critical to maintain our integrity and stay true to our core values. You mention you would not be fired for not reporting your boss “billing extra to patient insurnaces”. You would be guilty as an accessory to insurance fraud and could receive a fine or jail time. I understand what you are trying to say about the degrees we follow our values depends on the situation, but to honor and please God we need to remain steadfast to our integrity.

    Boa, K., Buzzell, S., & Perkins, B. (2007). Handbook to leadership: Leadership in the image of God. Atlanta, GA: Trinity House Publishers, Inc.

  5. LanceSmith says:

    I believe the difference between a whistleblower being a part of the team or apart is dependent on the corporation the employee is working for. An ethical company will create a system for corporate whistleblowing which will allow the employee to remain anonymous but still point out issues to upper management and outside sources if need be. A company which does this allows for problems to be solved internally and creates a workforce who feels safe in their environment. This would make the employee part of the team. Research has shown sustainable business practices such as being “green” lead to increased profits and an improved brand image to the public. I feel time will prove the same for companies who allow for whistle blowing. I almost believe an entire marketing campaign could be created for a corporation solely based on its ethics and whistleblowing policy.

    In summary, I believe the view of a whistleblower being a part of the team or apart from the team is solely based on the company’s ethics, values, and culture.

    It seems most issues with corruption tend to start from the top and trickle down to middle management and the lower echelons of the organization. I believe it is possible to prevent most corruption within an organization by stopping it before it starts. By reforming the standards for C level executives it is possible to do this. For instance, by looking for a sign of corruption and dishonesty in an applicant’s other aspects of life, it may be possible to avoid giving power to the wrong individual. Obviously this would not be possible in all situations but in theory it would deter many of society’s problems. In addition to this, it would create a society which rewarded strong values and morals instead of the opposite.

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