October 10, 2007

Removal of Support for the Whistleblower

The effect of being falsely charged within an organisation is particularly stressful for the whistleblower for the following reasons:
  • Dependence on the workplace for their own livelihood means potential supporters are much less likely to speak out and put themselves in a vulnerable position.

  • Potential supporters might readily be bribed - their stand influenced by promises of overseas conference trips, promotions they have always wanted etc. Such messages are obvious to the recipient, to the whistleblower, and to those who are watching. Many people can fairly readily accept such bribes since they feel that their promotions and other opportunities are well deserved anyway. Not unexpectedly they take the line of least resistance. Those 'bribes' are a powerful way of influencing waverers - even if they are not recipients of the 'bribe'. They are subtle, since they are clear messages from management to staff, while at the same time being (fairly) readily explained away by management as being a normal part of the business if there is an inquiry.

  • There is potential for the employer to encourage people who might be envious towards the whistleblower for some reason to speak out in particularly harsh terms, fabricate 'evidence', make up or embellish stories, etc.

  • There is a tendency for a significant percentage of the workplace to strongly resent 'destabilisation' of the workplace and they focus their anger against the whistleblower rather than management since the whistleblower is a much easier target.

  • The support mechanisms (human resource services for counselling, etc.) available within the workplace environment are not sufficiently independent of management. While such professionals might be highly trained in addressing workplace situations, much of that training focusses on assisting individuals to regain some kind of productive capacity, rather than confronting an incompetent or malicious management with a case of substantial victimisation or breach of the Occupational Health and Safety Act. In spite of it being their responsibility, the option of supporting a somewhat confused, highly stressed, perhaps fearful, relatively junior individual against a group of calm, lying, coherent, senior managers presiding over an intimidated workplace, can sometimes be just too difficult for human resources staff.

  • Since it clearly 'marks' the whistleblower, and from that point on others in the workplace either avoid them or treat them differently.

  • The whistleblower is often assigned to menial duties to ensure this lowerered status is well recognised by others, and to further stress the whistleblower. They might be asked to photocopy reports, or assigned to menial task of the activity which they questioned.

  • Administrative staff who, by their nature, spend a large part of their life making sure that things run smoothly within an organisation can react strongly against whistleblowers who object to carrying out maliciously motivated instructions. There can also be personal value system differences between whistleblowers adopting a questioning attitude towards management while administrative staff may have a preference for regulation implementation.

  • The whistleblower is likely to have considerable difficulty coming to terms with the fact that the organisation, for whom they have worked long and hard and in which they believe, is now setting out "to get them".
By Professor Brian Martin, from: http://www.uow.edu.au/arts/sts/bmartin/dissent/documents/psychiatry.html

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