If you work in an organization that has transgressed in a serious way, you might be considering whether or not to make information available to the public, the media, or to government authorities. If you continue to work there, and you have knowledge of violations, you might be involving yourself in illegal behavior, or at the very least, violating your own moral code. Sorting through these questions is much easier if you have professional support from an attorney, a counselor, or a therapist.
As difficult as these issues are, there are other matters to consider. Specifically, if you do "blow the whistle," how will your employer respond? How will your fellow employees respond?
There are obvious responses, including denials, personal attacks, reassignment, harassment, vandalism, termination, blackmail, extortion, and even brutality. Famous cases of whistleblowers are littered with these obvious measures. Here's Part I of a little catalog of some less-obvious tactics for which it's more difficult to prepare oneself.
- Other whistleblowers
- People in these situations tend not to consider the possibility that someone else has already blown the whistle, or is about to. If that happens to you, then you might already have been targeted for investigation; you might already be regarded as a co-conspirator.
- Perform an inventory of people you know who have information that could incriminate you. Assess the likelihood that someone is already conferring with authorities. If you sense that you're vulnerable, seek counsel and act quickly. If you think you still have some time, estimate how much time you have and get busy preparing material to use if you do contact authorities. Even if you act too late, a freshly prepared store of material could lend credibility to your claim that you were intending to act.
- Professional attacks
- If the whistleblowerProspective whistleblowers tend not
to consider the possibility that
someone else has already blown
the whistle, or is about to or prospective whistleblower is in a technical or specialized job, questions about the work products of the whistleblower are generally technical. For this reason, direct professional attacks of the obvious type might be effective, but evaluating them is difficult for people outside the profession. A more effective family of tactics involves degrading the whistleblower's own work products, so as to cause colleagues to discredit the whistleblower professionally. Direct tampering is possible, but so is tampering with data, devices, or the quality of materials upon which the whistleblower's own work depends.
- If you suddenly detect irregularities in your own work products, or in the resources on which your work products depend, reporting them through formal, regular channels might not be wise, because it signals the tamperers that you're aware of what they've done. Instead, consider enhancing security protecting your work, or creating a duplicate and far more secure version of your work, while allowing the tamperers to continue their operations on a false, less-secure version.
We'll continue next time, exploring more tactics that can erode whistleblower credibility. Next in this series Top Next Issue
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Ten Tactics for Tough Times: I
- When you find yourself in a tough spot politically, what can you do? Most of us obsess about the situation
for a while, and then if we still have time to act, we do what seems best. Here's Part I of a set of
approaches that can organize your thinking and shorten the obsessing.
- How to Get Promoted in Place
- Do you think you're overdue for a promotion? Many of us do, judging by the number of Web pages that
talk about promotions, getting promoted, or asking for promotions. What you do to get a promotion depends
on what you're aiming for.
- On Badly Written Email
- Even those who aren't great writers do occasionally write clearly, just by chance. But there are some
who consistently produce unintelligible email messages. Why does this happen?
- Look Where You Aren't Looking
- Being blindsided by an adverse event could indicate the event's sudden, unexpected development. It can
also indicate a failure to anticipate what could have been reasonably anticipated. How can we improve
our ability to prepare for adverse events?
- Columbo Tactics: II
- This is Part II of a series showing how the less powerful can adapt the tactics of TV detective Lt.
Columbo when they're interacting with the more powerful.
See also Workplace Politics and Managing Your Boss for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming March 29: Time Slot Recycling: The Risks
- When we can't begin a meeting because some people haven't arrived, we sometimes cancel the meeting and hold a different one, with the people who are in attendance. It might seem like a good way to avoid wasting time, but there are risks. Available here and by RSS on March 29.
- And on April 5: The Fallacy of Division
- Errors of reasoning are pervasive in everyday thought in most organizations. One of the more common errors is called the Fallacy of Division, in which we assume that attributes of a class apply to all members of that class. It leads to ridiculous results. Available here and by RSS on April 5.
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Beware any resource that speaks of "winning" at workplace politics or "defeating" it. You can benefit or not, but there is no score-keeping, and it isn't a game.
- Wikipedia has a nice article with a list of additional resources
- Some public libraries offer collections. Here's an example from Saskatoon.
- Check my own links collection
- LinkedIn's Office Politics discussion group