U.S. President Donald Trump answers reporters’ questions about a whistleblower at the White House. … [+] (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)
Plastered all over the news are stories about the whistleblowers on President Donald Trump’s dealings with Ukraine that have triggered an impeachment inquiry. A whistleblower is defined as an employee who brings to the attention of the government wrongdoing by an employer or other employee and is protected by law from retaliation. Here are five principles whistleblowers can teach professionals:
1. Know the law.
Leaders know right from wrong. To maximize your power, know what acts are legal and illegal. Know your company’s policies. When you know the law and policies, you also know your rights and remedies so that you can feel comfortable taking action.
2. Prioritize ethics, morality and integrity.
Leaders value integrity and behavior that is ethical and moral. Think about the behavior and actions you value. Think about your company’s credo.
Leaders value doing the right thing. Take comfort in knowing that you are doing the right thing. Don’t risk losing your moral compass.
3. When you see something, say something.
If and when you see something egregious, speak up. Think about how you would feel if you didn’t say something.
But don’t be a tattler. That is, don’t be someone who looks for someone to do something and who “tells” on others just to self-promote when the offense is not illegal or even serious. Whistleblowers generally do not want to be known but feel it is their duty to say something because it is in the best interest of others, the organization and possibly the greater community. Whistleblowers practice discretion.
To be clear, if you reach a whistleblower-level situation, you are passed the point of directly confronting the wrongdoer.
4. Let go of your pride, alliances or politics.
You may see wrongdoing being committed by a colleague who you are friendly with, who aligns with your ideology or who helped you with a project. It is natural to want to protect someone you like or someone that may be popular. But likability and popularity should not shield a person from being held accountable.
5. Be willing to risk something personal.
Leaders have the courage to sacrifice something personal to protect something greater than themselves, whether that is the integrity of your company or your country’s constitution. Leaders are willing to risk losing something, whether that is working on a prime project, their job or something greater. Groundbreakers recognize the risks that come with the privilege of leadership.
When you see something that runs afoul of the law and your moral compass, speak up. Sometimes you have to find that extra boost of courage to lead and hold people accountable to protect a greater good.
What principles do you hold that make you a better professional? Share with me your stories and thoughts via Twitter or LinkedIn.