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.
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More articles on Workplace Politics:
- Political Framing: Communications
- In organizational politics, one class of toxic tactics is framing — accusing a group or individual
by offering interpretations of their actions to knowingly and falsely make them seem responsible for
reprehensible or negligent acts. Here are some communications tactics framers use.
- A Critique of Criticism: II
- To make things better, we criticize, but we often miss the mark. We inflict pain without meaning to,
and some of that pain comes back to us. How can we get better outcomes, while reducing the risks of
- Management Debt: II
- As with technical debt, we incur management debt when we make choices that carry with them recurring
costs. How can we quantify management debt?
- The Deck Chairs of the Titanic: Obvious Waste
- Among the most futile and irrelevant actions ever taken in crisis is rearranging the deck chairs of
the Titanic, which, of course, never actually happened. But in the workplace, we engage in
activities just as futile and irrelevant, often outside our awareness. Recognition is the first step
- Reactance and Micromanagement
- When we feel that our freedom at work is threatened, we sometimes experience urges to do what is forbidden,
or to not do what is required. This phenomenon — called reactance — might explain
some of the dynamics of micromanagement.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming October 4: Self-Importance and Conversational Narcissism at Work: I
- Conversational narcissism is a set of behaviors that participants use to focus the exchange on their own self-interest rather than the shared objective. This post emphasizes the role of these behaviors in advancing a narcissist's sense of self-importance. Available here and by RSS on October 4.
- And on October 11: Self-Importance and Conversational Narcissism at Work: II
- Self-importance is one of four major themes of conversational narcissism. Knowing how to recognize the patterns of conversational narcissism is a fundamental skill needed for controlling it. Here are eight examples that emphasize self-importance. Available here and by RSS on October 11.
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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.