Please explain the different kinds of whistle blowing. Provide at least one argument for why whistle blowing is morally permissible, and not morally permissible. Please explain under what circumstances is whistle blowing is not only morally permissible, but also, morally required.
Whistle blowing is a message about some facts of corruption, bribery, illegal activities or immoral actions within organization. It is intended to call public’s attention to certain wrongdoing for bringing certain change. Such messages can be spread within organization (internal whistle blowing), or they can go outside the company and become public (external whistle blowing). They can be either personal (directly to the offender) or impersonal (in circumvention of the offender). Impersonal whistle-blowing is the most dramatic and publicized kind of whistle-blowing,”¯ De George (312) underlines. A whistle blower may report on the actions of colleagues or the actions of employers. De George also distinguishes nongovernmental (private-sector) whistle blowing and governmental whistle blowing.
It goes without saying that it is an easy task to be a whistle blower, and a whistle blower often faces a moral dilemma of whether to spread information or to keep it in a secret. If he lets the information out, it can threaten certain people, certain departments or even the company on the whole. If the information becomes public, it can ruin the company’s reputation forever. But at the same the actions under consideration of a whistle-blower may do harm to much more people and the society on the whole, so being armed with unpleasant, but valuable knowledge, a whistle blower may contribute to the improvement of situation. It may refer to the safety of the product, including faulty design, using inferior materials, lack of following specific standards and so on. It may include not only physical damage, but also monetary harm to customers or suppliers.
It is especially important for a government employee. Working for a government service, a person is both an employee and a citizen, and he is not only a part of the government, but he is a representative of his community and he is responsible for its well-being. At the same time, the illegal or immoral actions taking place within government may affect not only this particular structure, but the government and the country on the whole. That is why certain kinds of whistle blowers are even protected by special legislation in the United States.
De George (303) assumes that when a whistle blower is motivated by moral concern, he demonstrates the virtue of moral courage. A whistle blower puts himself at a risk in order to prevent harm to others. “The more serious the situation, the greater the effort required,”¯ De George (311) warns. However, it is not whistle blower’s moral obligation to put himself at a great risk until he has a reasonable expectation of success. In the meantime, the chances for failure are very high. That is why there are conditions when whistle blowing is permitted and becomes a moral authority, and there are conditions when it is necessary and becomes a moral duty. Whistle blowing becomes permissive when the harm coming from the actions or from the products of the company to the public is truly considerable and serious. Having become a witness of certain abnormalities, an employee should first report to the superiors, and if the situation is not changed, and the channels within the company have been exhausted, he may go to the board of directors or further, turning to special organizations protecting the rights of consumers, workers, women and so on. “There may be times when it is sufficient that he be reasonably sure that no action will be taken within the company, even if the himself has not raised the issue to the board,”¯ De George claims (162).
Meanwhile, whistle blowing is mandatory when a whistle blower is confident in expected harm and has enough documented evidence of the actions he wants to report on. He must also have the evidence that his reporting will be effective. Accordingly, this duty requires a capability to foresee the severity and outcomes of wrongdoing. However, even when there is enough documentation and evidence, there is no evidence that he will be taken seriously. There is also no guarantee that any counteractions will be taken by the superiors or even by government. The first thing for an employee to think about is his own safety after all. A whistle blower is risking his own working place, his relationship with colleagues or good attitude of managers. He may be considered a snitch who just wants to gain favor in the eyes of the employer (when the offender is his colleague, for instance) or he may experience oppression if his whistle blowing actions affect superiors directly. Whistle blowing is not permitted if the chance to change something for better is to small, as the main principle to follow is to do no harm.
Still, regarding the harm threatening to other groups may be non physical and physical. And De George underlines that physical injury or suffering is even more serious than, for example, financial harm coming out of fraud, and becomes obligatory to disclose. Pretty or unproven complaints are usually ignored by shareholders and other authorities, but when whistle blowing is morally justifiable, it is much easier, safer and more effective foe one to take part in.