Ten Steps for Effective Whistleblowing
1. Are you ready to put your career on the line? Talk to your family and friends so that they can be with you when the times get tough.
2. Decide which of the alternatives you can use to solve the problem. For example, will your superior retaliate against you? If so, then don’t tell that person. Is there a confidential way to pass along the information to the proper authorities so that an investigative group can take some action? The ethical functioning of the government or corporation is the responsibility of all persons in the organization. If you are the only one with the information. you will become the target of investigation.
3. Keep a log or diary of all facts or insights about the case. If legal testimony is inquired at some point this log may be helpful in constructing a chronology of events. Identify your supporting documents before you draw attention to yourself. Afterwards may be too late! Once you blow the Whistle, records may disappear and not be accessible to you.
4. Identify your support groups such as elected officials, non-profit organizations, journalists, church or social clubs, professional organizations and others. If you do not have a group behind you, whistle blowing will be a lonely uphill battle. Often these groups can act as third parties to speak to the press and others.
5. Before you go public with the information, attempt to carefully and informally talk with selected and trusted peers. Ask What they think about the problem. Remember that you will need to be tough-minded to ‘stick it out.’ Your Witnesses and friends may be pressured to come forward with information against you, so the support of peers in addition to family and friends is extremely important.
6. Check with groups who work with whistle blowers for advice and support and to develop an action strategy for your case. Integrity International, the Government Accountability Project and The Project on Government Procurement might be helpful. Whistle blower cases tend to have similar legal strategies and building on the experience of others is helpful. Remember, though, that these groups usually have a waiting list of clients.
7. If you cannot think of a Way to anonymously leak your information, talk with your attorney to determine whether your legal position is sound. You may also want to know the fees and up-front costs in case you need to file a lawsuit. This is extremely important! You may not have enough savings to cover legal costs.
8. Be on your best behavior. Once you blow the whistle, your supervisor and colleagues will be observing your behavior so do not make your situation worse by breaking some obvious rule, for example, by arriving late to work or leaving early. Be aware that support staff may be asked to observe you or security police may be used to investigate you.
9. Focus your disclosure on the facts rather than on an individual in the organization. Avoid pointing the finger at anyone. Rather let the disclosure itself leave a trail to the guilty party or parties.
10. Leak the information. Despite the recent controversy about leaks in Congress all levels of government leak information. Since it is important to protect your identity, I recommend giving the information to a third party who will then leak the information. The task is to get the necessary information to the proper investigative group so that they can do their work. Attempt to keep out of the path of the inquiry. Don’t be afraid to retreat.