So here’s the situation: when you were walking past the pantry, you accidentally heard two of your co-workers whispering to each other about something that was seemingly serious. When you decide to stop by and listen to their conversation in secret, it turns out that they are talking about something illegal: data embezzlement.
Trapped in such a situation, there are good chances that you will spontaneously think about reporting the suspicious behaviour to the higher-ups. But should you really blow the whistle? How will the whistleblowing act affect the relationship with your co-workers? Are there any career implications of speaking up and standing up for the truth?
Witnessing unethical behaviour or even illegal misconduct in the workplace can put you in an awkward situation. While some unethical behaviours are not harmful and widely-accepted, there are times when you have to deal with more serious wrongdoings that might violate the law. At one point, you might have the urgency to speak up and tell the truth to the authorities.
On the other hand, you do not want to ruin the relationship you have built for years with your co-workers. Not to mention, your own credibility at work will be at stake.
Being in such a worst case situation can be very daunting, as you have to decide if to blow the whistle or choose to look away, ignore and pretend as though nothing is wrong. It depends on how you handle the situation. If you use the right strategy and handle it appropriately, your testimony will grant you attention from the management.
They will take note of your high ethics and even recognise you as a role-model employee. Nevertheless, if you take the wrong step, it might impair your reputation as well. Owing to which, it is crucial to observe the whole situation before deciding to report about them.
See: To Obey, Comply or Not: How to Handle Unethical Requests Made by Your Boss?
Below are some things you can do to handle unethical behaviour in the workplace:
Remember: little piece of fact does not show the whole truth. When it comes to whistleblowing, you should never jump into conclusions without learning to figure out the whole picture. There are always good chances that you might misunderstand the situation. Therefore, keep your positive thinking and confront the person you suspect. Gather courage and ask them the right questions regarding their behaviours.
When you confront the person and they seem like hiding the truth, only then you can suspect that something fishy is going on. Upon facing this situation, you have to gather all the facts and evidences that will prove your suspicion.
You simply cannot just go around and accuse someone of committing illegal acts without strong evidences. Read the company guideline about ethical and unethical behaviours to ensure what your coworkers do is wrong, as well as learning what laws are being violated.
Have you got the whole story and scrutinised the situation? The next thing to do is seeking for help from third party. By consulting with a trusted person, you can gain better insights about the options to explore and the potential consequences of unveiling the truth.
However, you should be careful in choosing whom to open up. Avoid sharing such sensitive issues with your co-workers. Instead, go to the HR department or your supervisors to talk it out.
After confirming everything, holding evidences, and considering the consequences, now you are ready to file the report. Follow the company’s procedural guidelines when filling out the required paperwork.
Make sure to complete them within the designated timeline and submit your evidence along. You should be prepared to involve in further investigation process, such as giving in-depth testimony.
Even if the unethical behaviours at work observed might be true, you should never share it with your coworkers. Keep your ethics by not spreading such issues, as it will only hamper your reputation and credibility.
Read also: Clues that Reveal if Your Boss is a Psychopath at Work