A whistleblower is someone who reports wrongdoing they have seen at work. This usually involves revealing information that is in the public interest, such as illegal or fraudulent behaviour by private companies and governments. Various laws in different countries attempt to protect workers who blow the whistle, and also encourage or regulate their actions.
The idea of whistleblowing has become more prominent in recent years due to a number of high-profile scandals and events, such as the global financial crisis of 2007-2008 that exposed widespread mismanagement by financial institutions, and the Volkswagen Dieselgate scandal that showed car manufacturers had been illegally cheating emissions tests. These scandals, and many others, would likely have been much worse without effective internal whistleblowing channels in place.
Whistleblowing 101: Understanding the Power and Importance of Speaking Up
However, whistleblowing is not always a morally pure action, and there is a lot of debate about whether it should be required in certain circumstances. People may be motivated to blow the whistle by revenge, a desire for promotion or ingratiation, a sense of obligation, or simply self-protection. It is also common for those who are targeted by whistleblowers to argue that the motive is morally corrupt.
It is important to note that a whistleblower can only be protected from retaliation by the law if the information they report is in the public interest. It is also vital that whistleblowers remain calm and polite when reporting their concerns, as screaming and profanities can give their employer a legitimate excuse for retaliating against them later on (such as firing them or refusing them access to their employment records) that may be difficult to challenge as pretext later on.