Whistle Blowing


This module so far has introduced some views of corporate social responsibility and clarified the position of the professional in society and the firm. These two topics are instrumental to the discussion of whistle blowing. Whistle blowing happens when someone within a company goes public regarding some action that the company has taken. Often these are issues of public safety or health, and they're important enough that the individual cannot remain silent any longer. 

The phenomenon of whistle blowing seems clearly counter to the profit-first worldview. A company can probably make more money by endangering the public than by protecting the public, and so this would be very tempting to a company. The various views of corporate social responsibility would give employees reasons to blow the whistle, and it's likely that whistle blowers see themselves as obligated to society when they blow the whistle on their company.

This last requirement of the professional, to uphold an obligation to the public, is what will lead professionals to be especially apt to blow the whistle. They simply must do so for the sake of their obligations to their profession and to society. When a manager is focused on profit and not on safety or public welfare, they might do things which can lead to whistle-blowing. This conflict between an employer and their employee's responsibility towards the public (and perhaps their profession) is what leads to the responsibility to blow the whistle. You'll see this conflict in the way that the engineers involved in the Challenger case acted towards NASA and Morton-Thiokol. 

Of course, a non-professional employee might also have an obligation to blow the whistle on their employer. It's entirely possible that many cases of whistle blowing could be carried out by non-professionals. While you are reading the two papers attached to this module, think of whether a non-professional and a professional would have the same obligations to blow the whistle.

The first paper (from Davis) describes the standard theory of permissible whistle blowing, points out the problems in that standard theory, and then tries to improve upon it. The second paper (from Duska) takes aim at the core concept behind the search for permissible whistle blowing, employee loyalty, and attempts to show why employees don't have an obligation to be loyal at all.