Whistleblowing 101

Igor Andriushchenko2022-12-27

How to blow the whistle and minimize risks for yourself - from preparing the evidence to acting on your findings.


Have you witnessed wrongdoing at work and want to do something about it? Becoming a whistleblower can be a brave and rewarding decision, but it's essential to understand the risks and the steps you should take before speaking out.

Who is a whistleblower?

A whistleblower is someone who reports misconduct or illegal activity within an organization. This could be anything from financial fraud and discrimination to health and safety violations.

Why become a whistleblower?

There are many reasons why someone might decide to become a whistleblower. Perhaps you witnessed wrongdoing and feel a moral obligation to speak out. Or, you may be concerned about the negative impacts of the misconduct on customers, employees, or the public.

Regardless of the reason, it's important to remember that whistleblowing can be a risky decision. You may face retaliation, including being fired or demoted, or even ostracized by your colleagues. It's essential to weigh the potential risks before deciding to blow the whistle and try to minimize them.

What should you do before becoming a whistleblower?

Before becoming a whistleblower, there are a few steps you should take to protect yourself and your family.

  1. Document the wrongdoing: Make sure you have evidence to support your claims. Keep detailed notes of what you witnessed, including dates, times, and names of people involved. While documenting, consider that this may trip some wires in the org security and expose you. Not breaking law and organization policies while preparing to blow the whistle may be a thin line, so tread carefully.
  2. Talk to someone you trust: It can be helpful to talk to a friend, family member, or even a lawyer before making the decision to blow the whistle. They can provide support and guidance as you navigate this potentially challenging process. You may also consult with a security professional to make sure you document the wrongdoing without exposing yourself.
  3. Know your rights: Familiarize yourself with the laws that protect whistleblowers. In the United States, the Whistleblower Protection Act of 1989 and the Sarbanes-Oxley Act offer protection for whistleblowers in the private and public sectors, respectively. In the EU, follow the Directive on the protection of whistleblowers.

How to blow the whistle safely

Once you've decided to become a whistleblower, there are several ways to report misconduct.

  1. Report internally: If you feel comfortable doing so, you may want to start by reporting the misconduct to your supervisor or HR department. This can be the quickest and most straightforward way to address the issue.
  2. Report to a regulatory agency: If you don't feel comfortable reporting internally, or if the misconduct is not addressed adequately, you may want to consider reporting to a regulatory agency, such as the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) or the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
  3. Report to the media or share publicly: As a last resort, you may consider going to the media. This can be an effective way to bring attention to the issue, but it can also be the riskiest option, as you may face backlash and legal action.

Becoming a whistleblower can be a brave and rewarding decision, but it's essential to understand the risks and the steps you should take before speaking out. Document everything, talk to someone you trust, and know your rights. And, when it's time to blow the whistle, explore the options of reporting internally or to a regulatory agency before going to the media.

Organizations can help their whistleblowers

From the organization's perspective, implementing safe and consistent whistleblowing channels internally is the best way to protect the company, encourage positive change, and empower employees.

Keeping track of reports and responding to whistleblowers in a timely manner can be achieved with modern whistleblowing platforms such as Whistle Willow in virtually no time. Try it today for free and get started in less than 5 minutes!

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